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| Yiddishe Gelt |

How We Do… Chanukah Presents

We spoke to a selection of frum families and asked them to share their Spending Accounts

Compiled by Rochel Burstyn

The Yiddishe Gelt supplement published in Mishpacha’s Succos package triggered a lot of discussion and feedback and left a taste for more. The conversation continues with this new column, which will be featured monthly in this space.
Where do you save?
Where do you splurge?
What’s a non-negotiable expense and what can you forgo?
We spoke to a selection of frum families and asked them to share their Spending Accounts.
What are their priorities, and how are their principles reflected in their fiscal choices?
Take a look at their spending to get a view of their values. Maybe you’ll find yourself too.

 

Curious about how other people spend on a particular area of frum life?
Do you want to share your spending accounts in the next Yiddishe Gelt installment?
Send in your suggestions for items to cover and/or offer yourself as a respondent at gelt@mishpacha.com

 

Meet the Panelists

 

Yechiel and Shifra Jacobson
Ages: 40s
City: Cleveland, OH
Occupations: Chinuch and Real Estate
Family: 13 kids, aged 3 to 22

 

B. Glaser
Age: 50s
City: Brooklyn, NY
Occupation:
I’m a homemaker; my husband is in the import business.
Family: 9 children aged 8-31, 5 are married

 

Brachi Silver
Age: 30s
City: Five Towns, NY
Occupations: Office administration; Real Estate
Family: 4 kids; the oldest is 8

 

Yosef G.
Age: 58
City: Brooklyn, NY 
Occupation: Real Estate
Family: I’m single and have 5 kids, 4 of whom are married.

 

Goldie Samuels
Age: 38
City: Lakewood, NJ
Occupation: Therapist; husband learns at BMG
Family: 7 kids, ranging from ages 1 to 15

 

Chaya Norkin
Age: 50+
City: Beitar, IS
Occupations: Currently I’m a homemaker and foster mom. My husband works in customer service for an American company.
Family: 10 kids aged 11-30, 6 are married, one is engaged

 

Toby Stern
Age: 39
City: Los Angeles, CA
Occupations: My husband is a sales manager; I teach part time.
Family: 8 kids, ranging from 2-17

 

 

Yechiel and Shifra Jacobson

Our family minhag is Chanukah gelt, not gifts. A few years ago, one of our oldest kids, who has special needs and is in public school, told us she felt resentful that all her peers were getting gifts and she wasn’t. That attitude trickled down to the younger ones and soon everyone was clamoring for Chanukah gifts. We felt it wasn’t worth the battle, so we started letting our kids pick out a gift in the range of $25 each. We tell them very clearly that it’s not really our minhag, but we’re doing it to make them happy. They appreciate it.

 

Where I splurged, where I saved

If a kid really wants a particular item, I’m willing to spend a little more as long as they don’t tell their siblings. I spend less on the younger kids who don’t understand or care and are happy with any new toy.

 

The best piece of advice I got from others with experience

“Why make a fuss over it?” We took the middle of the road. We could have insisted on sticking with gelt, or we could have gone overboard with our spending, but we felt $25 per kid was reasonable.

 

Brachi Silver

My kids get gifts from my parents and in-laws and some aunts and uncles. I try not to shower them with more because we have too much stuff and they don’t need it, but some years I’ll have each of them pick out a gift for a sibling. I try to keep it in the range of $25.

 

Where I splurged, where I saved

I don’t splurge on gifts, but values are definitely worth splurging on sometimes.  We tell our kids they can each pick out a gift for a different sibling and surprise them with it. It forces them to think of others and focus on giving instead of receiving.

 

What I would do differently next time

I don’t like the pressure of gift giving. It feels unnecessary to me, not at all what Chanukah is about. In an ideal world, I’d love to tone down the gifts from our relatives. We’ve told both sets of our parents that anything more than a small token gift is really not necessary, but giving to their grandchildren makes them happy.

 

Yosef G.

We do gelt, not gifts, and I follow my father’s custom to be extremely generous with my kids. I give each family about $5,000.

 

Where I splurged, where I saved

It’s important to me to continue my father’s tradition. I also host a big family Chanukah party; I spend about $400 on the menu.

 

B.Glaser

We don’t give presents, we give Chanukah gelt. The younger kids get $5, the middle kids $10, the teens $20 or $25, the couples $100, and the grandchildren are also divided by age.

 

Where I splurged, where I saved

Giving our couples money is a splurge! We help out for simchahs but don’t usually just stam hand out cash like that.

 

The best piece of advice I got

Do whatever it takes to keep kids close, but don’t try to buy them.

 

Chaya Norkin

We don’t do gifts, we do gelt. I grew up with a very non-commercialized Chanukah and that’s what we give our children, too. Every night we have some kind of special nosh — chocolate coins or fancy jelly beans. On the 5th or 6th night, each kid gets between 5 to 20 shekels.

 

Toby Stern

We give our children something every single night, along with a few dollars and chocolate Chanukah gelt. Sometimes it’s a family game or a gift the grandparents sent for them, but they always get something. In total, we spend about $200 to $300 for the entire Chanukah, including activities and outings. We don’t do anything huge, but we still want our kids to have a special feeling every night of Chanukah.

 

Goldie Samuels

My kids get gelt from relatives and they are more than welcome to buy whatever they want with it. We don’t give them gelt or presents, although we spend a little money (about $75 each year) trying to make Chanukah fun for them. We go on a small Chanukah trip, decorate doughnuts together, go to a few parties, do various activities like that.

 

What do you say if your kids complain or compare with their friends?

We’ll try to ask what the norm is in their class before we buy anything. If they’re upset and it really does seem like less than what all their peers received, we’re willing to adjust and spend more. But if it’s about the same as most kids and they’re just feeling jealous, we tell them, “There will always be people who have more” and just let them be upset.

—Yechiel and Shifra Jacobson

 

They do sometimes compare with friends, but complaining kids is a fact of life. We have a quick conversation about being grateful for what you have and move on. We also try to choose gifts for them that they consider a treat so they’re excited about what they get. They’re so busy with the Chanukah parties and seeing extended family that there is enough to be excited about even if they didn’t get exactly what they had in mind.

— Brachi Silver

 

I don’t give to the grandkids who aren’t married, and the older ones are obviously mature enough to be grateful for whatever they receive. I think part of avoiding jealousy and comparing is practicing what we preach: if we show our kids we are always happy with what we have, they learn to follow our example.

—Yosef G.

 

Here in Eretz Yisrael, most kids get gelt and not gifts.  A child who wants something and not just money, is welcome to go shopping during Chanukah when there are some really good sales on toys.  That is one of the things I like about living in a chareidi city.  Some of these issues are non-issues.  Chan ukah is not nearly as commercialized here as it is outside of Eretz Yisrael.

—Chaya Norkin

 

We try really hard to have a balance; to get our kids something they’ll like but without feeling like we have to buy them something expensive “just because everyone else has it.” Our teenage daughter happens to have friends who come from wealthy families. At this point, she understands different financial brackets but it can be a challenge with younger kids who don’t understand. We just say, “Everyone’s different” and try to make our own kids feel special, so hopefully they wont feel jealous of others.

— Toby Stern

 

My seven-year-old is very focused on toys and always complains and compares; the rest are perfectly happy with whatever they get. I always say, “We do what we do,” and try to point out the positives, what makes our family special. “Look, we’re having fun every day… We don’t get toys on Chanukah, but we do get presents for afikomen and birthdays, not everyone else gets that.” My 10-year-old used to complain when he was seven too, but he outgrew it, so I have hope this won’t last forever!

— Goldy Samuels

 

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 888)

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