Rabbis Recall Their Most Unusual Gifts

By Debra Rubin/Hadassah Magazine

Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt with a banjo given to her by a congregant.

Judaica. Jewish-themed books or artworks. A donation to a synagogue fund or other favored charity. Those are the traditional gifts that rabbis receive. But a banjo? A restaurant napkin holder? A possible tombstone?

As Hanukkah approaches, a time for gift-giving for some, we decided to look at some of the atypical gifts rabbis have received—for all kinds of occasions.

When a congregant walked into a meeting with Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt over the summer, he was carrying a banjo, and she wondered if he was taking lessons.

It turns out that the congregant, using bar mitzvah money, had bought the stringed instrument more than 30 years ago, but never really got into playing it. When he heard Holtzblatt play a banjo during the Return Again musical service she co-leads at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C., he told her he had figured out why he had held onto it all these years: “It needed a new home, and you are it.” READ MORE

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