Toys Worth Menschioning

by | Oct 19, 2018 | Hillel Ontario | 0 comments

Kids may have become more tech-savvy and appear uninterested in toys these days, but most of us remember playing with toys – especially during the Jewish holidays! But just because we’re all grown up doesn’t mean we can’t reminisce or spin the dreidel once in a while! Ranging from Jewish editions of classic toys and board games, to traditional toys for the holidays, here are some Jewish toys that will bring you back to childhood or maybe even spark a new tradition.

Mensch on a Bench

Although it’s not a traditional Chanukah toy, this Mensch on a Bench toy was created in hopes of sparking new Chanukah traditions following the Elf on a Shelf craze we saw years ago. The concept even survived an episode of Shark Tank and has been a growing new tradition ever since.

 


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Dreidel

We’re all familiar with the Dreidel, the quintessential toy we spin at Chanukah as kids (and adults!). Although it’s a Chanukah tradition to celebrate and just have fun with family, you can even get competitive and join a Dreidel tournament now.

 

Tefillin Barbie

Maybe we didn’t grow up with Tefillin Barbie, but Barbies are one of the most iconic doll toys of all time. If you ever felt like you were missing out on owning a Jewish Barbie, now someone actually makes Tefillin Barbies, and handmade Barbie-sized Torah’s for those who want to keep their Barbie collection going.

 

 

Plastic Toy Shofar

Plastic Shofars were and still are a fun way to join in on the high holiday celebrations as a kid and make some noise. You can even get a plush Shofar, which might be easier on the ears – sorry parents!

 

Groggers

Groggers are the ubiquitous noisemaker used on Purim among all the colourful masks and flowers. You can make your own as part of the celebration and make some noise in Purim, but the classic wooden grogger is the original toy of the holiday.

Holocaust Remembrance Day 2023

Holocaust Remembrance Day 2023

In their research on listening to survivors of the Holocaust and other genocides, Bronwen E. Low and Emmanuelle Sonntag note listeners’ problematic tendencies towards one of two responses.  On the one hand, they can regard the narratives as so unfamiliar and foreign that they must be pushed away as overwhelming, untouchable, and inaccessible.  On the other, the stories can be seen as familiar, to the point that the listener cannot separate their own experiences and emotional response from what they take in.

But another, preferable response exists: Roger I. Simon and Claudia Eppert talk about a “chain of testimony” and suggest that listening imposes a duty on the listener.  Listening to personal testimony at the crossroads of memory and history “imposes particular obligations on those called to receive it – obligations imbued with the exigencies of justice, compassion, and hope that define the horizon for a world yet to be realized.”  In this way, bearing witness and listening to testimony demands a number of actions and responses, including that we “transport and translate stories of past injustices beyond their moment of telling by taking these stories to another time and space where they become available to be heard or seen.”

If we take Simon and Eppert’s charge seriously, as I believe we should, those of us who have been privileged to hear the direct testimony of survivors of the Holocaust.  Their words come not just with the specific knowledge they impart or the emotional impact they have on us – sorrow, anger, fear, horror – but with a duty, an obligation of some kind.  

On many of our campuses, this week is Holocaust Education Week, and this Friday marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Given the significant number of Holocaust survivors and their descendants in Canada, the scheduled events and programs have a personal resonance for many of our students and their families, but their impact can be deep and meaningful for all of us, regardless of who we are and where we come from.  I encourage each of you to make time to participate in this week’s activities and to consider your place in the chain of testimony: what obligation does listening to narratives from the Holocaust place on you, and how do you carry those stories forward in time?

 

Weekly D’var: Shemot

Weekly D’var: Shemot

In this week’s parashah we learn the story of Moses, from his birth, through his flight from and eventual return to Egypt, to the acceptance of his role as leader of the Hebrew people.

After fleeing Egypt, for killing an Egyptian slave master, Moses was living rather peacefully as a shepherd in the land of Midian. The Torah describes for us Moses’s first interaction with G-d upon coming across a bush, “burning with a heart of fire [Exodus 3:3]”. G-d calls out to Moses and requests he take the Jewish people out of Egypt and eventually into the land of Israel. However, Moses argues with G-d, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh? Who am I that I should take the Jews out of Egypt? [Exodus 3:11]” After initially refusing four times, Moses eventually agrees to G-ds request, and as we know, the rest is history. But why was Moses so unwilling to take up the position of leader, to the extent that he would argue with G-d? And why was G-d so set on having Moses lead the Jewish people? 

Perhaps the answer can be found through the incident that led to his flight from Egypt, years earlier, when Moses, as mentioned above, killed an Egyptian slave master for beating a Hebrew slave. Immediately, he was met with opposition from some of the Hebrew slaves, “who made you chief and ruler over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian? [Exodus 2:14]” Moses felt discouraged and unsure of his ability to lead. However, it seems that G-d saw in Moses, a faithful shepherd, the ability to lead his people from slavery to freedom. Very often in Tanakh, the people that are most worthy to lead are the ones who deny that they are worthy at all. Moses may not appear to be the first choice for a leadership figure, suffering from a speech impediment and lacking charisma; however, Moses possessed certain qualities that made him the ideal leader to bring the Jewish people out of Egypt. We too possess qualities that can lead us to achieve incredible success and realize our full potential. We may often feel unmotivated or unsure of our own capabilities. Instead of feeling discouraged, I believe we can look to Moses who, despite all his doubts, stepped up to the challenge and became the greatest leader in Jewish history. 

Sam Virine
VP of Jewish Life at Hillel Waterloo & Laurier

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