A discussion with Neal Hoffman, the creator of ‘The Mensch on a Bench’

Toy and book sets have become all the rage, starting with the Christmas-themed “Elf of the Shelf” and expanding rapidly into other holidays and themes. “The Mensch on a Bench” is a toy and book set intended to celebrate Hanukkah via the character of “Moshe” who is a “mensch” which is a Yiddish word describing a person of integrity and honor. Creator Neal Hoffman featured this item on ABC’s “Shark Tank” and has since expanded his company to include other items. Since its launch in 2012, the company has been dedicated to helping Jewish and interfaith families have meaningful and fun interactions that are centered on Jewish culture.

The Mensch on a BenchTo date, there are nine products in the line including dreidels, menorahs, activity kits, chocolates and two new female “mensch” characters named Hannah the Hanukkah Hero and Ask Bubbe. All of the items are developed from the mind of company founder, Neal Hoffman. “With two Sharks by my side, Lori Greiner, and Robert Herjavec, the ideas keep on flowing,” Neal said. “We have not worked with any inventors yet but our ears are open if anyone has any ideas!” It is the fun and imaginative aspects of the items that have made them popular with over 100,000 families. “It has been an amazing experience to create a brand from scratch and watch it become a pop culture icon,” Neal declared. “In 2015, Moshe the Mensch, my wife and myself were honored to have been able to attend the White House Hanukkah Party!”

Neal had big plans for the company. Mostly, he hopes that within five years “The Mensch on a Bench” has cemented itself as an annual tradition. In regards to advice for fledgling inventors, Neal strongly suggests using crowdsourcing websites such as Kickstarter. “You can now test your ideas before you spend a lot of money in production so test and learn,” he suggested. As for the near future, he is looking forward to the release of “Hannah the Hanukkah Hero” and “Ask Bubbe” who is a talking Jewish grandmother doll. “Everyone should have a doting grandmother in their lives offering advice, and now they can,” Neal declared. “It’s going to be a blast!”

To learn more, visit the official website.

Meagan Meehan

Meagan J. Meehan is a published author, poet, cartoonist and produced playwright. She pens columns for the Great South Bay Magazine, Examiner and AXS. She is also a stop motion animator and an award-winning abstract artist. Meagan holds a Bachelors in English Literature and a Masters of Communication. She is an animal advocate and a fledging toy and game designer.
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