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My Jewish Holiday Cookie Exchange Experiment

December 3, 2017 | by Stephanie D. Lewis

I tried to organize a holiday cookie exchange at my shul. This is what happened.

“Can I organize a traditional holiday cookie exchange?” Posing problems that would cross a Rabbi’s eyes! With a look of consternation as he tugged at his long beard, you’d have thought I just asked him to hold my hand and dance with me in Motel and Tzeitel’s wedding scene on Fiddler on the Roof.

“Just don’t get caught with your hand in the cookie jar!”

“Well it isn’t exactly forbidden, and I suppose it’s no sin,” he finally said. I left the synagogue before he could issue his final ominous warning, “Just don’t get caught with your hand in the cookie jar!”

How hard could it be to coordinate something the gentiles have been doing since the dawn of Nestles chocolate chips? I excitedly approached our shul book club membership to get everyone revved up about my great idea!

Me: In honor of Chanukah, let’s each bring a plate of cookies for a fun swap during our next meeting, ok?

Reader 3: But we don’t have 10 members!

Me: Nu? Since when do you need a minyan for a cookie exchange?

Reader 1: Oy! You’re picking the week we’re reading Exodus? No time. I’ll just buy Oreos.

Reader 5: Or you could make those pre-made slice n’ bakes that pop out of a tube.

Reader 2: For shame. That’s like cheating and using Cliff Notes.

Me: Okay, seriously??

Reader 2: Uh…my shiksa neighbor said women have to actually own a rolling pin to be involved in these exchanges.

Me: This is supposed to be fun!

Reader 3: Why should I put major time and effort creating homemade Leon Uris cookies if someone else just brings a bag of store bought Shel Silverstein sandwich cookies?

Me: That’s true. If we wanted commercially made cookies, we’d head to the supermarket. C’mon ladies, we can get out our festive cookie cutters with the best of ‘em! The church down the street does it annually.

Reader 1: But they’ve already cornered the market on easy circle-shapes like snowmen, Santa’s face, and tree ornament sugar cookies!

Reader 4: (Gasp!) That’s right. We could have a casualty! Like losing one of the points on a Star of David cookie, or the spinner top of the dreidel might break in half. Or God forbid the shamash candle snaps right off an overly crispy menorah. And then where would we be?

A long, respectful hush fell over the shul library.

Reader 2 You’re right, it’s far too dangerous. Why don’t we just make gingerbread men, with yarmulke and tallis icing? We can sing, “Batchmaker, bathchmaker, bake me a batch!”

Me: Ugh, let’s just forget this whole complicated thing and have a latke party. I’ll bring the applesauce.

When Rabbi heard my dismal results he wisely uttered, “Well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles!” Not giving up, I thought I’d try the idea with our Jewish group therapy.

Me: We’ve all become so supportive of our unique personalities – how about a cookie exchange? Bring 3.5-dozen!

Mr. OCD: I can’t deal with odd numbers. Can we round up to an even 4-dozen?

Ms. Germaphobe: Everyone bakes wearing gloves!

Mrs. Agoraphobic: I’ll attend if the cookies are distributed in my own home.

Miss Panic Attack: I’m anxious they’ll burn.

Mr. OCD: Check the oven every 30 seconds, like I do.

Miss Chronic Depression: Such a downer project. I’ll probably spend the day sleeping.

Mr. Low Self-Esteem: My cookies will get shoved in the corner and nobody will taste them.

Ms. Narcissist: Listen up, people! It’s not always about you. Can’t you see I love Chanukah cookies?

I went back to the Rabbi for more advice. “Rabbi, is there a proper blessing for organizing a holiday cookie exchange?” He lowered his eyes profoundly. “May G-d bless and keep the holiday cookie exchange organizer . . . far away from me! Now be a smart cookie and go buy a dozen Kosher chocolate rugelach and call it a day!”

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