Marblehead native Neal Hoffman had a problem to solve. His son, Jacob, looked at a Christmas toy—The Elf on the Shelf—and wanted one. Neal had a quick reply: “Jews don’t do elves on shelves. We do mensches on benches.”
From there, the gears were turning. Neal came up with designs, created a Kickstarter campaign and found himself on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” pitching a foot-tall plush doll, complete with a beard, tallit, black fedora and menorah, called “The Mensch on a Bench.”
The rest is (Jewish) history. Neal has created a modern Jewish icon with a back story, plush family members and a cartoon deal. Israel’s national baseball team adopted the Mensch as its official mascot, ordering a 5-foot-tall custom Mensch, who, quite literally, sat on the bench through the team’s improbably fantastic run in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
In early June, Neal’s creation will be the centerpiece of the celebration of Jewish Heritage Night at Fenway Park when the Red Sox play the Detroit Tigers on June 5. Hear from Neal in our latest podcast and enter our drawing below for a chance to win two tickets to the game!
Edited by Alex Lemieux, with music by Shawn Fogel.
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