Move Over, Elf On The Shelf!

Move Over, Elf On The Shelf!

The "Maccabee on the Mantel" is creating a new Hanukkah tradition.

Anna Levy is the Online Content Coordinator for the Atlanta Jewish Times.

Everybody has heard of the Elf On The Shelf, a Christmas tradition for many households. But now there’s a new toy in town that’s just right for Hanukkah.

Maccabee On The Mantel is a plush Maccabee doll, and it comes with a hardcover children’s book telling the story of the miracle of Hanukkah. Abra Beth Liberman, the author of the book and founder of Maccabee On The Mantel, says of the book: “This is a holiday with a really wonderful story behind it, and it would be foolish to miss an opportunity to educate children about it.”

Liberman taught at her son’s preschool, which she described as “a wonderful experience that really paved the way for his connection to Judaism.” Her son left preschool and went to a secular public school, which she says was a whole new world for him.

“My son became exposed to Christianity and other religions that he had ben sheltered from in preschool. When he saw the Elf On The Shelf, he wanted one too. I had to explain to him why we couldn’t have one, and I had to explain that Santa wasn’t coming to our house,” Liberman says. “I started asking myself how I could make sure he felt included and involved in a way that worked for our family. I wanted to find a way to make my son feel culturally, religiously, and socially connected to Judaism in a non-Jewish world.”

The idea of Maccabee on the Mantel began as a joke. Liberman was at a Christmas party with her friend David Wilk, and they jokingly said, “Elf On The Shelf? Where’s our Maccabee On The Mantel?” After a five-year process, Maccabee On The Mantel was born. It debuted last year to instant success, winning the Product of the Year 2014 award from Creative Child Magazine. It’s also sold online, on Amazon, at Hallmark, in smaller toy stores, and synagogue gift shops.

Maccabee on the Mantel is a lot like his Elf On The Shelf counterpart, with a few differences. The Maccabee doesn’t always move every night. It depends on whether or not the Maccabee is “magical.”

Another important distinction is that the Maccabee does not report bad behavior like Elf On The Shelf does. Liberman has a reason for this.

“In Judaism we always try to emphasize being a good person just for the sake of being a good person, not because you are expecting a reward.” She says, “That’s not me saying anything pejorative about other faiths, it’s just me saying I really appreciate that aspect of Judaism, and I want the Maccabee to reflect that. I want to teach my children that doing the right thing doesn’t entitle you to anything.”

Liberman is “honored” and “humbled” by the Maccabee’s success. She hopes one day every Jewish home will have a Maccabee, and that it will become a tradition.

“Judaism is constantly changing and evolving, and Maccabee is a way to keep up with the times and to present the Jewish community with another idea to celebrate their Judaism,” Liberman says. “For the connection to Judaism to grow, we need to be as understanding and compassionate as possible. There’s no ‘wrong way’ to be Jewish.”


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