Why Do Jews Give Gifts on Hanukkah?

The custom of parents giving their children coins on Hanukkah—known as Hanukkah gelt—is well-known today, but goes almost unmentioned in pre-20th-century sources. It seems that the practice evolved from an older custom of giving holiday charity, especially to rabbis and cantors. An even newer custom, writes David Golinkin, is giving presents instead of money:

[I]t was the Yiddish press that encouraged Jewish immigrants to buy Hanukkah “presents,” and the English word was quickly absorbed into Yiddish. By 1906, the [socialist Yiddish daily] Forverts advertised Hanukkah “presents” for sale and the religiously conservative Yiddishe Tageblatt urged Jewish parents to give gifts to their youngsters to increase their enthusiasm for the holiday. The Tageblatt‘s most faithful advertiser explained that Christmas and Hanukkah gifts go hand in hand. On the other hand, Forverts editor Abraham Cahan warned Jewish immigrants against buying too many gifts on the installment plan and the Tageblatt warned its readers “we do not want death from pleasure!” . . .

By the 1920s, the Yiddish press advertised Hanukkah “presents” including cars, waffle irons, Colgate products, ginger ale, Aunt Jemima pancake flour for latkes, and even stock shares!

Read more at Schechter Institute

More about: Abraham Cahan, American Jewry, Hanukkah, Jewish holidays, Minhag

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7