December 12, 2014 / 10:03 PM / 4 years ago

What a mensch! Toymaker ups production of popular Hanukkah toy

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The toymaker who funded his sold-out Mensch on a Bench toy through a Kickstarter campaign last year is ramping up production of the plaything in time for Hanukkah next week.

A Jewish version of the wildly popular Christmas Elf on the Shelf toy, the doll and book set retells the Hanukkah story and explains what it means to be a “mensch,” a Yiddish word meaning person of honor, said creator Neal Hoffman, a former Hasbro toys executive. 

While the Elf keeps track of who is naughty or nice, the Mensch keeps watch over the Hanukkah candelabra, called a menorah, as its candles are lit over eight nights and protects the toy owner’s household.

Hoffman came up with the idea of Mensch on a Bench last year while trying to think up ways to create more holiday rituals for Jewish children.

“Our society is so consumed by the customs of Christmas during the whole month of December that I felt like we needed to do more for Jewish kids so they don’t feel left out,” Hoffman said on Friday.

Hoffman raised $22,000 last year on Kickstarter, the fundraising website, and sold out the 1,000 toys that were produced in 10 days.

This year, Hoffman produced 50,000 mensches by negotiating with toy manufacturers to pay 20 percent down and to repay the rest of the cost of manufacturing once he turns a profit. Hoffman said he expects to make a six-figure profit this year.

Each toy cost $8 to manufacture and the amount of profit he makes per sale depends on where the toy is sold, he said.

Mensch on a Bench is available for $29.99 at major U.S. retailers including Target and Barnes & Noble.

Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Doina Chiacu

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