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Menorahs and Dreidel Cookie Molds: Prepare for Hanukkah at the Last Judaica Store in San Francisco

Written by Camille CohenPublished Dec. 19, 2022 • 8:44am
Harriet Prensky shops for Hanukkah goods at Dayenu Judaica at 3220 California St. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

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While many San Franciscans are placing their Amazon Prime orders, in search of the true meaning of Christmas, the Jewish portion of the population is digging up the menorahs they swore they had.

This year, the eight days of celebration overlap nicely with Christmas, meaning many of us are united in our end-of-year Chrismukkah panic. Oh, the Holidays! 

But while people who celebrate Christmas have infinite stores in innumerable malls to shop at, there’s only one store in all of San Francisco and the Peninsula that specializes in Judaica. Dayenu, from a word meaning “plenty,” is home to a range of products—religious and cultural alike—that recognizes Judaism and Jewish culture in America.

A pedestrian passes Dayenu, a Judaica store at 3220 California St., in the Richmond District of San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

When a customer ran in, requesting special, made-in-Israel, hand-dipped Hanukkah candles, we learned she had traveled all the way from Oregon to pick them up. Whether traveling from the Mission District or Sacramento, Dayenu has something for everyone. The impressive inventory list ranges from children’s books to wall art, pomegranate-shaped incense holders, socks that say “LOL” (for “Lots of Latkes,” of course), to nail files for the “Jewish American Princess.” And of course, it has all the traditional stuff, too.

The owner of Dayenu, Hiroko Nogami-Rosen, has been part of the fabric of the store since it opened in 2003, and by now, she knows most of her customers by name. Nogami-Rosen immigrated from Japan at 30 years old, and it wasn’t until she was halfway through raising Jewish children and a few years into running a Jewish goods store that she converted to the religion herself.

Hiroko Nogami-Rosen, owner of Dayenu, poses for a portrait at Dayenu Judaica shop at 3220 California St., in the Richmond District of San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

“I was really adamant that I didn’t feel the need to convert, even up through my daughter’s bat mitzvah,” she told The Standard. “But a few years before I converted, I had a breast cancer scare. And the way my Jewish friends showed up for me—so supportive… I really felt the power of community.”

That sense of community is aided by the fact that Dayenu shares a wall with the Jewish Community Center (JCC) of San Francisco. The JCC, which is also Dayenu’s “very understanding” landlord, also provides around-the-clock security during this increasingly scary period of rising antisemitism.

In spite of generous rent relief from the JCC, Dayenu has just been scraping by. This is in part because of the rise in online shopping, but also because, as Nogami-Rosen put it, “How many menorahs can you really sell to one customer?” 

A menorah shaped like a bike and other crafty menorahs sit on the shelf of Dayenu Judaica shop at 3220 California St., in the Richmond District of San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, Dec 14, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

Sales of their fresh Challah (every Friday) apparently aren’t enough to keep the doors open and the dreidels spinning, either.

Still, Dayenu is clearly indispensable. According to customer Harriet Prensky, who was frantically shopping for a battery-powered menorah as a gift for a daughter who will be traveling to Peru over the holiday, “This place is central to our community, especially because we aren’t in New York. There’s no Jewish neighborhood [in SF] for us to shop for these items.”

If you’re wondering where to get holiday candles, a b’nai mitzvah gift, or a bag of candies called “Orthodox Chews,” there’s really only one place in San Francisco to do it.

Dayenu Judaica

📍3220 California St., SF
🔗 dayenu.com

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