Eight Gifts That Give

As November draws to a close it can really start to feel like you’re being assaulted by advertisements, shopping events, and messages to “Buy, buy, buy!” 

Between the mixed messages that gift shopping can send your kids, or just being totally burnt out from Black Friday ads, it can be hard to process Hanukkah gift giving.

Here are eight gifts (that’s one for each night of Hanukkah) that give back in some way. Some are tangible, others are favors or moments, but each item is rooted in making a connection with the person receiving the gift, which is really what giving gifts is all about.

We hope this list can launch deeper conversations with your family about friendship, hakarat hatov,(recognizing the good), tikkun olam (repairing the world), and the true purpose behind giving gifts.


Take some time to connect with an old friend, mentor, neighbor, second cousin, or buddy you haven’t seen in awhile. Get a quick coffee, take a short walk, or grab a quick meal. Take 15 minutes to kvetch and kvell together. If you live far away from relatives--especially grandparents--set up a Skype, FaceTime, or Google Hangout so that you can all see each other, if only virtually.

Letters & Cards

If you’ve ever watched a child open their PJ library envelope, you know that it’s exciting to get personalized mail. You can craft some cards with your child or buy a box at the dollar store and write special messages together. Include a photo or favorite memory of the person that you’re sending the card to. You can also mail a “hug” in a card.

Tzedakah Boxes

Help a friend start their own tzedakah practice! Make a customized tzedakah box by recycling household items, order a special one online, or share your PJ Library tzedakah box.

A Cow! (Sort Of)

What do you get the person in your life who has everything? Nothing! Well, not nothing, but you get them something for someone else. Through organizations like Heifer International, you can purchase tangible gifts for communities in need in the name of someone you care about. If your fabulous friend does like something special, go for limited edition items from an online marketplace with a mission. Sites like Sevenly, Society B and Bears for Humanity sell special and limited edition shirts, toys, and goods that benefit various charities.

Some Time

Take a beat to help someone in need. Whether you stop an extra minute to help a mom with an unruly toddler to the car with her grocery bags, visit a lonely neighbor, or volunteer for an afternoon, a little bit of your time can go a very long way. If you'd like to volunteer somewhere but you're not sure what or when or how, make use of your PJ Library books--you can read to the elderly at a local senior center, read to animals at a shelter, or just read to friends who are stuck home, sick.


Once upon a time, homemade coupon books were go-to gifts (especially on short notice). Your kids can go old school with construction paper, staples, and crayons, or use online templates to make your own coupon books. What might you include? Well, aside from “read a story together,” or “make dinner,” you can also use options like: “good for a day all about you,” or “good for a batch of special sufganiyot” or “good for: you get to choose the movie tonight.”

Handcrafted Items

You don’t have to DIY--you can purchase something at a local craft fair or support small artists and businesses online. If you have a friend who runs their own pop up shop or online craft store on a site like Etsy, you can do double duty by buying from them--support your friend while giving a totally unique gift to another friend.


Participate in #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving. Support your favorite causes with a donation. For nonprofits, every little bit helps--even $1 goes a long way. American Jewish World Service is one of the top human rights-focused organizations in the world and their campaigns are proof that a small donation can have a global impact. You can also “pay it forward” and help a community like yours fund a PJ Library subscription. Learn more at pjlibrary.org/donate.