When I was a kid, my Jewish family “celebrated” Christmas. It was when everyone could get off from work, so my grandparents would come down from Connecticut, and my uncle would fly in from California. We found it to be the best way to celebrate as a family, because it was when we could all get together. But we didn’t really have Christmas traditions. Later, we would, like most Jewish families, start going to the movies and a Chinese restaurant on Christmas day. Then I started dating Angelfish. Christmas became much more important. Continue reading Christmas Traditions
Disclosure: Dad on the Loose was provided a free copy of the book discussed for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.
The Mensch on a Bench is the Kickstarter-funded Jewish answer to the Elf on the Shelf. Available as a 12 inch doll that sits, wait for it, on a bench, Unlike the Elf, the Mensch doesn’t report to anyone. Instead, it holds the shamash, or the candle that lights all of the other candles on the menorah. When the children behave, he lets go of the candle (so they can light the menorah and receive their presents). When they misbehave, he keeps it. The doll comes with a book, or the book can be purchased on its own.
The book begins with the story of Chanukah – there is only enough oil left for one night. A random man offers to watch the oil to make sure that the lamp it is lighting does not go out. Each day, the Mensch does something special, from creating dreidels, to giving all of the children gifts. It ends with the eight rules for the Mensch on the Bench and how he should be treated. Unlike the Elf on the Shelf, it is encouraged that he be included in all activities. He’s not just an observer.
My Take: I like the book. The story is a lot of fun for kids, and is well-written. It’s a cute way to introduce kids to the story of Chanukah, and the holiday’s traditions. From latkes to dreidels, the Mensch does it all. This lets parents talk about where these things really come from and why we celebrate Chanukah with them. It also sets up the idea that we do good for each other and, perhaps more importantly, that the important thing is giving to others in this time, instead of getting presents. I would recommend the doll for a similar age group as the Elf on the Shelf (probably under 8, but know your kids). I would recommend the book for kids in elementary school.
The Mensch on a Bench is available at the website’s shop, here. The book alone is $9.95. The book plus doll (and bench) is $29.95