Move over Elf on a Shelf! The Jews now have Mensch On A Bench, a small stuffed doll Hasid to compete with Santa Clause.
The Elf on the Shelf is a stuffed doll made for Christmas which has already generated more than $10 million in sales.
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.
Its creator, who once worked for Hasbro, acknowledged that he got the idea from Elf on a Shelf. Hoffman financed the product with a Kickstarter campaign that raised $22, 000.
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.
But Orthodox Jews are probably not going to be so happy with the new holiday mascot. They are sure to see it as yet another example of Jewish assimilation into American culture. What next, Moses the Muppet? Larry the Lulav?
But more mainstream American Jews will see it differently. They are always looking for ways to compete with Christmas during the holiday season, especially the ones with children who attend public schools.
As Hoffman himself put it, “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.”
“The idea is that we’re going to bring some more Judaism into the household and give parents a tool with which to celebrate, ” Hoffman explained to WPRI Channel 12 News of Providence.
“The Mensch loves to play dradle, he loves to eat latkes, and you move him around every night because he’s an old Jewish guy and he gets so bored. And he watches over your menorah for you, ” Hoffman said.