Jews who have been looking for a Hanukkah mascot to compete with Santa Clause finally have an option. Mensch on a Bench, a small stuffed doll Hasid, is now available in stores.
More than 20 years ago Jon Lovitz offered America’s Jews their own holiday hero known as Hanukkah Harry on Saturday Night Live. Harry came riding to the rescue on a carriage drawn by camels instead of reindeer.
Now comes the brainchild of former toy marketing executive turned entrepreneur, Neal Hoffman. The Mensch On A bench 12 inch doll comes with a book introducing children to the story and traditions of Hanukkah, while emphasizing the fine characteristics of a Mensch – a good and honorable person. The book tells the story of Moshe the Mensch, who was in the temple when Judah and the Maccabees won an important war.
The product is the result of the mingling of Hanukah and Christmas in America since the two holidays usually coincide. This year the last day of Hanukkah falls on Christmas Eve.
Hoffman is Jewish, his wife is Catholic, and they are raising their children Jewish. He raised $22, 000 on Kickstarter for a prototype Mensch last year, and is producing 50, 000 units for sale this year in retailers.
“The success of THE MENSCH ON A BENCH is a dream come true for me and my family, ” said Hoffman. “So many Jewish and interfaith children and families love the holiday season and appreciate all of the wonderful Christmas traditions. We also know that so many Jewish families like ours have been eager to bring home a fun and warm character and story that can become their very own family tradition for many years to come.”
I’m thrilled with the reaction from the Kickstarter community, Jewish community, and now, from mass merchants as well, ” Hoffman said. “Equally satisfying is the joy that our family has experienced with The Mensch On A Bench, along with the letters, tweets and Facebook posts we have received from other Jewish and interfaith families. For me and my family, this is such a fun and fulfilling ride.”
But not everyone is as thrilled as Hoffman. Many Jews see it as another example if the assimilation of the American Jewish community and a degradation of Jewish holidays.