Benny Goes to Israel

The Mitzvah Adventures of Benny the Bear – at B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills

by Barbara Hochberg and Andrea Kessler

When Benny the Mitzvah Bear arrived in Short Hills, New Jersey, the children in our Kindergarten class were beyond excited. They had been expecting this special visitor and were well prepared for his arrival.  You see, Benny’s cousins Shumuli and Sigal are permanent characters in our Kindergarten family. Each child gets a turn to bring home one of these little animals on their special Shabbat. They are able to take them home in  the Kindergarten Shabbat bag, equipped with a Mitzvah log and storybook,  to share with their families one time  during the school year.

The children really enjoyed the wonderful reunion of these family bears and we eager to learn all about Benny and his travels. We read about the places he had been and then we got a great idea. Our Rabbis had just told us about a trip they were planning to take to Israel during the school vacation. We realized that Benny could take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity and travel to Israel with Rabbi Matt Gewirtz and Rabbi Karen Perolman… no better tour guides exist!!! We scrambled to get Benny a passport and the children approached Rabbi Karen with the idea.

Benny Goes to IsraelShe was eager to bring Benny along with her and assured the children that she would make certain he wore a seat belt on the plane and he remained safe at all times.  What was most exciting about this idea was hearing all about the trip when they returned. Rabbi Karen brought us photos that showed all the wonderful places they had traveled in Israel and the children were very interested to learn about each and every experience.  They loved seeing the photos and hearing about the many mitzvot Benny participated in while in Israel.

Benny and the kidsBenny was able to spend time with our children after he got over the jet-lag that made him very sleepy in school. We learned about the importance of Tikkun Olam and shared our thoughts about how we could each help “build a better world”.  Benny certainly brought out the best in each of us and we were sad to send him on to his next destination.  We look forward to seeing Benny again someday, as he was a cuddly and very welcomed addition to our Kindergarten family.

P.S. Benny did need to stop off at our local “Build-a Bear” store for a quick repair while in our care… in the event anyone else experiences an issue with some of his seams!! They were thrilled to help us and he was as good as new!


The TBJ Kindergarten


Barbara Hochberg is the Director and Andrea Kessler is the Kindergarten Head Teacher of the Early Childhood Center at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, NJ.

See more photos of Benny and the other Mitzvah Bears’ adventures on the URJ’s Facebook page.

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