Jewish Student Center gift table encourages donations

Kelly Hildebrandt

Calculators, facial scrub, screwdrivers and paintbrushes covered the University Jewish Student Center’s gift table Tuesday morning. Not ordinary gift selections, the presents will be given to needy teenagers and adults during Chanukkah.
This year, Chanukkah begins at sundown on Dec. 13 and ends at sundown on Dec. 21. The gifts were displayed at Coffman Union on Monday and Tuesday by Hillel, the Jewish Student Center, for students and faculty to buy and donate to families.
Alyssa Abrahamson, coordinator of the event, bought the gifts for the gift table, each costing from $1 to $5, herself. All items that aren’t sold will be donated by Hillel to the Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis.
The gift table is in conjunction with the Jewish family service, which is sponsoring the event.
This is the sixth year the Jewish family service has sponsored the event, said Sheila Kohen, Hillel’s volunteer coordinator for the holiday season. They provide gifts for all Jewish family members, ranging from small children to grandparents.
Last year the program provided gifts for about 250 families, Kohen said. She added that businesses, families and student organizations donate the gifts along with cash donations.
“It’s an obligation to help those who have less,” said graduate student Jim Chonom.
This is the second year Alyssa Abrahamson has organized the gift table to round up more presents for the Jewish Family and Children’s Service. She said she expects to sell about $100 worth of gifts.
“For these people it’s a different situation. They need stuff,” Abrahamson said, adding that people would rather buy toys like paintbrushes than a tool set or toothpaste.
Abrahamson said the gift table gives students and faculty a chance to donate a gift to someone who wouldn’t know about it.
Traditionally, celebrators of Chanukkah receive one gift a day during the eight-day celebration, Kohen said.
“Tell me what to buy,” said Sami Alpanda, an economics graduate student, to Abrahamson. “What do they need?”
Alpanda, originally from Turkey, donated $10 worth of gifts including facial scrub and a photo album.
“It lets people who are isolated know that the community cares about them,” Kohen said about the donation program.