Meet the Mensch on the Bench, the circumcised answer to the manipulative, passive-aggressive Elf on the Shelf phenomenon.
Apparently some Jewish families have been suffering from “Elf Envy.” And because this is America, some
schnorrer enterprising gentleman is getting rich because no good parent would deny their precious child another tsotchke.
C’mon, Yenta, you’re saying. You’re just bitter because your kids are too old to fall for the “behave yourselves or the mensch won’t bring you prezzies” nonsense.
You may be right. Perhaps I’m becoming an alterkocker in my 40s. For reals, I’m so old school I still spell Chanukah with a “C.”
I admit, the book that accompanies this little man actually looks kind of cute and somewhat redemptive in its moral tale.
And I guess it makes little Jewish kidlets feel good that even though Santa’s not freaking coming ever, at least there’s a stuffed midget moving around the living room. He might even be useful if he can clean wax out of the menorahs.
But I don’t like contrived, million-dollar ideas masquerading as “new traditions.”
Whywhywhywhy us Jews gotta be all “Let’s Christmas up Chanukah” all the time? Why do Jewish kids need a Mensch on the Shelf, or his less flashy Israeli cousin, The Maccabee on the Mantel?
Look, I’m all about flashing up ancient ritual. I understand the need to create a sense of belonging however we can in Judaism, and I fully support creative appropriation of decor, within limits. (Blue lights around the palm tree in the front yard? Cool. Decorating any type of indoor foliage. HELL NO.)
I just think it’s difficult enough to cultivate healthy Jewish identities from the roiling stew of nationalistic idealism, capitalistic brand brainwashing and plain old family weirdness.
On the other hand, Blue Velvet Cupcakes? That I can get behind.