The best way to celebrate a festival is by adding a new tradition to family celebrations to teach children about the importance of a festival in a fun way while bringing families together. This is the mission of Moshe the Mensch, a Hanukkah-themed doll inspired by the famous Jewish Elf on the Shelf.
Mensch on a Bench is a Hanukkah-themed plush toy company in Cincinnati, OH, established by Neil Hoffman-a former toy marketing executive turned entrepreneur. He is the inventor of the doll, Moshe the Mensch, and the storybook that comes with it, representing the Jewish equivalent of the popular Elf on the Shelf.
Starting with Moshe, the Mensch, now the brand has grown and included a whole Mensch mishpachah. There’s a doll for everyone, from kids to bubbes, making it a perfect gift for Hanukkah. In a very little time after its launch, the Mensch on a Bench became the new Hanukkah tradition aimed at bringing Jewish families together, teaching them the importance of the Hanukkah festival.
The inspiration behind the idea of creating the Mensch- a good and honorable person-was when Hoffman’s son asked for an Elf on a Shelf, a Hanukkah staple for Jewish families worldwide. Hoffman’s creative background in the toy sector helped him with the idea of creating the doll, Moshe the Mensch. He also wrote a storybook that comes with the doll, citing Moshe’s heroic adventures in the war fought by Judah and the Maccabees against the Greeks inside of the temple.
Hoffman started Mensch on a Bench with a Kickstarter campaign in May 2013, raising over $22,000 for its production of the first 500 units and taking it to retail stores and online. Then in 2014, just four days before Hanukkah, he pitched the Mensch on the famous Shark Tank and successfully gained an investment of $150,000 from two sharks, Lori Greiner and Robert Herjavec, for 15% of the company. After its appearance on the show, Mensch on a Bench generated annual revenue of $930,000 with a $250,000 profit. Since then, the brand has been growing, adding new characters to the Mosche family.
Our Review of Mensch on a Bench
Mensch on a Bench has come a long way, starting with an idea now being sold primarily at retailers, including Bed Bath & Beyond, Toys ‘R’ Us, and Target. The company also sells online on its official website and other major retailers like Amazon.
But Hoffman didn’t stop there. He took his company beyond these retail channels and won a film deal with Los Angeles-based Pilgrim Studios, selling the film and TV rights for Moshe, its main character.
Moshe is a 12-inch plush doll that comes with a children’s storybook depicting Moshe’s heroic adventures and how he always strives to do the right thing and takes his role very seriously as a Mensch, inspiring others to do the same.
Later, the brand added other members to Moshe’s family. There’s a range of characters, including the classic Mensch on a Bench doll plus storybook, a talking Mensch on a bench, Ask Bubbe (a talking grandma doll), Mitzvah Moose, Zebra from Zion, Dreidel Dog and the Snow Mensch, among others.
It is a great way to teach children how Moshe helped Judah Maccabee in the temple against the Greeks and to bring it to the world as a new Jewish tradition. The purpose is to teach Jewish values to children and drive family traditions more.
After their appearance on Shark Tank, Mensch on a Bench has made over $3 million in sales after the first five years. It has its displays in over 1000 stores and is still growing in the market with a current valuation of $ 3 million in 2021, which was $ 1 million at the time of its appearance in the show. This shows that the company has a bright future ahead.
According to Hoffman, the company’s biggest asset is that it holds intellectual property in a product category, being the first to answer all the questions about the Jewish traditions, pulling all the consumers from a specific market.
Pros of Mensch on a Bench
- Moshe the Menschfunnily retells the Hanukkah miracle.
- The talking dolls teach popular Yiddish Jewish words and phrases
- Children get to learn about the importance of the Hanukkah festival and its traditions with colorful illustrations
- A high-rated, reasonably-priced product
Cons of Mensch on a Bench
- The product has no drawbacks in terms of quality but concept. Some critics believe that Mensch represents an extremely limited view of modern Jew families.
Who is Mensch on a Bench for?
The Mensch on a Bench is for families celebrating the Hanukkah tradition and for everyone who is interested in it. Hoffman’s purpose behind this idea was to bring families together and pass on the festival’s values to children. From kids to Bubbs, there’s a plush doll for everyone that makes a perfect gift.
Are there any alternatives?
There are few other alternatives in the market selling meaningful plush dolls for Christmas, such as the Elf on the Shelf, Stars from Afar and Hallmark Cards. However, Mensch on a Bench is the pioneer and the sole company offering the Jewish Moshe the Mensch with a storybook.
Our Final Thoughts!
Mensch on a Bench is indeed an interesting plush toy that tells the heroic story of Moshe the Mensch in the great miracle of Hanukkah. No doubt, it has become the best-selling Jewish toy brand and is still expanding and adding more characters to the Mensch family. The increasing sales and valuation of the company show that it has a bright future. Moshe the Mensch, along with other mishpachah members, introduces Hanukkah traditions to children and encourages them to do the right thing as the Mensch did.