Around 30 years ago, during Hanukkah, Rick and Shira Antonoff found themselves with a holiday emergency on their hands: Somehow, their menorah had caught fire and set their lacquered marble table ablaze. “I remember Mom was screaming, and Dad got a huge thing of water and poured it out,” says the musician and producer Jack Antonoff, who is Rick and Shira’s middle child. “For the rest of our childhood, the table had a huge burn in it.”
They’ve since bought a new table and had plenty more big family gatherings around it, but they otherwise like to keep things low-key. “We always went light on gifts at Hanukkah time,” Shira says. Adds Jack: “It’s annoying when Jews compete with Christmas; Hanukkah is not a huge holiday.”
When it comes to exchanging presents, they’re bigger on birthdays. Once, as a gag gift, Jack’s sister Rachel Antonoff, a fashion designer, gave him official paperwork stating that she had legally added “Tevye”—the name of the lead character in Fiddler on the Roof—to her name (she’s still waiting for the request to be processed). Jack says he prefers to randomly treat people throughout the year, because “gifting is huge to me, but around a holiday, it becomes extremely stressful.” This season, he’s into the idea of a fruit-of-the-month club membership. “It’s practical, it’s exciting, and also, it’s not going to get wasted,” he says. “If they don’t like it, they’ll give it to a friend or a neighbor.”
Shira, an animal lover with a particular fondness for elephants, will sponsor an elephant at the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust as a present. “It’s deeply meaningful work, and important,” she says. “When you give a gift, you also want to give something that gives you joy giving it.” Rick, a self-proclaimed wannabe dancer, is hoping to get tap lessons from Broadway Dance Center.
While they keep Hanukkah pretty relaxed, they do go “very hard for” Thanksgiving, according to Shira. “Thanksgiving was like our Christmas,” Rick says, because it’s just easier for everyone to agree on celebrating something more secular. Shira adds: “Even though Thanksgiving has a screwed-up message historically, we can now approach it a little differently, in a better way.”
The Antonoff Family’s Gift Guide
Still lifes photographed by Devin Doyle; set design by Elaine Winter; styled by Christina Holevas.