How to Select a Gift for the Jewish Friend or Colleague Who is Religious

by wrapitup4me

Invited to dinner by religious Jewish friends? Have a religious Jewish boss, partner, colleague or employee? Here's a simple guide to selecting a meaningful gift.

Jews come in many variations - there are religious Jews and secular Jews, and even different kinds of religious and secular Jews. Even for some of us Jews it can be confusing.

I'm providing you here with a simple guide that will help you pick out the most appropriate gift for your religious or Haredi Jewish friend or colleague. These are not gifts for specific holidays, but rather gifts for any time during the year.

I will define the different categories of Jews and then provide some examples of what you can buy each of them if you are invited to dinner or have some other occasion to which it is appropriate to bring a gift. Suggestions for Jewish friends and colleagues who are not religious will be presented in a separate article.

Happy Jewish Shopping!!

In Giving Gifts to a Jew, It is Important to Distinguish Between the Religious and the Secular Jew

There are gifts that you just do not give to an Ultra-Orthodox (today referred to as Haredim - pronounced Harr-ai-deem) or traditional religious Jew.

There is, of course, much more freedom with the secular Jew, many of whom would appreciate a gift showing your sensitivity to, and understanding of, their culture. I will help you pick out gifts for secular Jews in a separate article.

You may be invited to share a meal with your Haredi boss or colleague, but any invitation to your home will be politely refused unless you are of the same Haredi denomination as he or she. This is because of the extremely strict dietary laws that mean that the very religious person can consume nothing but water served in a glass (made of glass) when the laws of kashrut (kosher) are not certain.

Satmer Haredi Family by MyshiHaredim are very easy to distinguish as the men don the formal black suit of the European gentry from the late 1980s, a wide-rimmed black hat, beard and sidelocks; the women wear long dresses, stockings, long sleeves, high necklines regardless of the weather and married women wear head covering of some kind. This style of dress emphasizes the felt need of the Haredim to remain distinct from the surrounding communities and the high value they place on modesty.

In the Haredi home you will find little decoration and only that which represents religious belief and community belonging. The only photographs on display may be those of the Chief Rabbi of the denomination to which the family belongs. 

Photo by: Myshi (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence)

The Traditional Religious Jew

The religious man who is not Haredi dresses in modern clothing. He will usually wear a kippa (head covering) but some do not wear it when at work among non-Jews. You may or may not see four tassels hanging over their pants. These are part of the traditional undergarment the religious Jew wears. 

The religious Jewish woman will dress in modern dress but more modestly than many of her peers. The hem of her skirt will be at least to her knees, her sleeves will reach at least to or over the elbow and she will not have a low neckline. She may wear a scarf or other head covering, perhaps even a wig that is so natural you do not suspect that it is a wig.

Traditional Jews keep kosher. While not as strict as the Haredim, they nonetheless will not eat anywhere that does not follow the laws of kashrut. Similar to the Haredim, they will not work, use the telephone or any means of transportation on the Sabbath day (Saturday) nor on holidays during which work is prohibited. 

Traditional Jews mix more freely with non-Jews and secular Jews than do their Haredi peers. 

DO NOT Give These Kinds of Gifts to the Religious or Haredi Jew

  • Photograph, painting or statue.
  • Wine or any other form of food or drink because each group has its own particular kashrut label and some will not partake of products overseen by another group.
  • Religious books - you do not know what kind are acceptable to this particular person.
  • Books on Israel - you do not know their attitude toward this sometimes contentious issue.

Some Gift Suggestions

Since all Jewish festivals and the Jewish Sabbath include blessings over wine, a hand-crafted fine crystal wine decanter would be a thoughtful gift to bring. 

Jews are commanded to donate to charity and many religious homes have a tzedekah (charity) box so that coins can be added at regular intervals. This fine box, available in a variety of colors, would be a meaningful gift for the Jewish family.

Gifts for the Religious or Haredi Jew Valued at $100-$200

On Sabbath two loaves of traditional bread (Challah) are placed on a special plate. This stainless steel plate has "Shabbat Shalom" (Happy Sabbath) stenciled out in Hebrew and pomegranate branches and fruit carved in it. A glass cover makes for easy cutting and cleaning. This item is made in Israel.


This tablecloth, called: "Pomegranates in Gold", was designed by Yair Emanuel, a popular Israeli artist. 

It is made from silk and is machine washable. Emanuel grew up in Jerusalem in a religious family and later adopted a more liberal life-style. His designs combine traditional Jewish motifs and a colorful contemporary style.

It measures 60" by 140".

Gifts for the Haredi or Religious Jew Valued at $50-$100


On the Sabbath and holidays, a special cloth cover is placed over the two traditional Challah breads. There are many designs available and this makes a very respectable gift to the religious or traditional Jewish couple or family.

This particular Challah cover is elegant in its design - monochromatic, with "Good Shabbos" (Happy Sabbath in Yiddish) written in English and "Shabbat Shalom" in Hebrew. The candelabra provides a counterpoint for this unique cover.

Made from mat polyester satin, it measures 21" by 18" and is machine washable. Simply hang to dry.


Shraga Landesman, based in Haifa Israel, is a popular artist creating functional small-scale products. His works are displayed in museums and galleries in Europe, Israel and the USA.

This napkin holder is fashioned from aluminum in the shape of a pomegranate, a fruit that features in the Torah and has significance in Judaism.

Gifts for the Religious or Haredi Jew Valued at $20-$50

Gifts in this selection are less suitable for dinner invitations and more appropriate when it is a simple gesture of friendship, in thanks for help that was offered or at any other opportunity when an inexpensive gift is called for.

Since religious Jews look to Jerusalem as the center of their spiritual lives, you cannot go wrong with either of these gifts below - the mug has a photograph of the Western Wall, otherwise called the "Wailing Wall". And the mousepad is decorated with a brilliant drawing of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Personal Gifts for the Religious or Haredi Woman

There are few things more spectacular than Michal Negrin's jewelry. An expensive gift ($113), these earrings are unique, handmade in Israel using only the highest quality materials. Simpler, less expensive but no less impressive earrings and necklaces are also available.

A more modest ($24) but no less artistic gift is the jewelry box above, designed by Israeli artist Yair Emanuel.

Personal Gifts for the Religious or Haredi Man

Both the tie-tack ($48.85) below left and the cuff links ($124.95) below right are created from hand-painted Israeli coins by artist, Manny Zeevi, who lives and works in the United States. The coins are real. They are painted by hand, following the design on the coin, a protective sealant added and then set into 14-K gold containers before finishing the product. Each one is unique.

Manny assures us that it is perfectly legal to alter these coins because there is no fraudulent intent involved; in other words, he is not selling you a coin that has been altered to appear rare and valuable.

A Token of Your Esteem, Valued at Under $20 - When You Know the Recipient has a Sense of Humor

The "Jew Jitsu" design can be found on a variety of products, such as stickers, key-chains, iPad covers, buttons, shirts, a hat, carry-all bags, notebook and more.

The mug pictured here is the only product so far to which the seller has affixed the "Old Jews Telling Jokes" design.

A Token of Your Esteem Valued at About $20 - When You Are Not Sure About Their Sense of Humor

The designs on both the mug and binder below have been applied to a variety of different products. You can find the Star of David motif by clicking onto the artist's store (about half-way down the product page) and then clicking the "Religion and Spirituality" category, followed by "Golden Star of David".

Other products using the lovely gem decorated Star of David motif can be found on that artist's store website by clicking the "Holidays Traditional and Alternative" category, followed by "Hanukkah Apparel and Gifts".


The image used as the icon for this article is featured on the binder to the right ($20). The painting is by artist, Joseph Asarfati, a Jewish artist who lived around the year 1300 and apparently painted mainly Hebrew manuscripts. Only a few of his works remain. This design has been applied to several different products that you can find on the store by clicking the "Manuscripts Religious" category, followed by "Joseph Asarfati".

Great Jewelry Gifts by Israeli Artist, Michal Negrin

Michal Negrin Designer Earrings
Dangling, stud or hoop earrings designed by Israeli artist Negrin and handmade in her studio in Tel Aviv are produced at a quality that is hard to surpass. Negrin's style is romantic and harks back to by-gone days but her jewelry is made with the contemporary woman in mind.

Updated: 11/01/2013, wrapitup4me
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wrapitup4me on 08/31/2012

After 26 years! Well, let's see if I can fill in some of the gaps with time. I am not religious but value my tradition.

BrendaReeves on 08/31/2012

Very nice and useful article. My ex is Jewish and was very protective of his religion but not religious at all. Therefore, I didn't learn much about the religion in the 26 years we were married.

sheilamarie on 08/22/2012

Nice products featured here. Your advice on what is appropriate and what is not is helpful. Thank you.

katiem2 on 08/22/2012

Thank you for the insights on gift giving for the Jewish friends in our lives. :)K

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