What’s Jewish About…Toy World Sensations ‘Guess Who?’ and ‘Pop It’?
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What’s Jewish About…Toy World Sensations ‘Guess Who?’ and ‘Pop It’?

In 1965, Tel Aviv couple Theo and Ora Coster, of blessed memory, founded Theora Design, a toy business that has grown into one of the world’s leaders in games and novelties.

Robyn Spizman Gerson is a New York Times best-selling author of many books, including “When Words Matter Most.” She is also a communications professional and well-known media personality, having appeared often locally on “Atlanta and Company” and nationally on NBC’s “Today” show. For more information go to www.robynspizman.com.

Theora Design, a family business founded in Tel Aviv in 1965, has become a world leader in the design of toys, games and novelties.
Theora Design, a family business founded in Tel Aviv in 1965, has become a world leader in the design of toys, games and novelties.

In 1965, Tel Aviv couple Theo and Ora Coster, of blessed memory, founded Theora Design, a toy business that has grown into one of the world’s leaders in games and novelties.

Now run by their sons, Boaz and Gideon Coster, along with Boaz’s wife, Aliza Coster, the company has created and licensed some 200 products, including the ICETIX popsicle stick, Guess Who?, Zingo!, and the stress-relieving toy Pop It. Boaz Coster spoke to the Atlanta Jewish Times about his parents’ legacy and more.

Theo and Ora Coster

Tell us about your parents’ background.
Our mother, Ora, was born in Degania Bet, a kibbutz on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Later, her parents moved to another kibbutz, Mishmar Hasharon, where she studied art and became an art teacher. Theo was born to a printing family from Amsterdam and worked in various printing areas.

How did your father know Anne Frank? What was the connection?
Theo was a classmate of Frank’s at the Joods Lyceum in Amsterdam. He made a documentary about five additional surviving classmates that was followed by his book, “We All Wore Stars: Memories of Anne Frank from Her Classmates” (Palgrave McMillan). Before the war, Theo was named Maurice Simon and changed it to Theo while hiding with a Dutch family who received a Righteous Among the Nations nomination from Yad Vashem and remained a part of our family until they passed away.

What inspired your parents to invent things?
They were very arty and creative, designed book covers and drawings, made exhibitions and, in the early 60s, started doing promotions like giveaways and premiums. They became aware of all sorts of materials and mass production methods. Our company, Theora Concept (Theo + Ora), includes my brother Gideon and my wife Aliza. We develop, create and license various playthings. We also cooperate with designers, developers and inventors from all over the world, including chemists, doctors and architects, to name a few, to create and design toys and games for the toy industry.

What invention are your parents best known for?
The ICETIX, an ice cream popsicle stick that was one of their first inventions, later licensed by the Borden dairy company in 1969. They were making 12 billion ice cream bars with a stick named Elsie Stix. The idea of the new plastic stick enabled kids to keep, collect and construct things out of the sticks.

Theo and Ora Coster

Can you tell us how your parents invented the bestselling Pop It fidget toys?
The first Pop It toy had a tragic inspiration, when Ora’s sister, Zvia Mayroze, an artist, died of breast cancer in 1974. She had an idea in a dream which, decades later, led to our biggest hit, the Pop It and Go Pop toy, now a global craze. Decades later, in 2013, David Capone of Foxmind, the Montreal-based games company, made the crucial decision to go for it, which took a few additional years to get onto Target shelves and then some TikTok/YouTube videos to become history all over.

Who runs the company today and what are you most proud of?
My parents started the company in 1965. I studied toy design in the UK and, in 1981, joined them. My brother, Gideon, studied computer science and joined in 1993. My wife, Aliza, is a CPA and has been managing the finances since 1993. We were all working and creating playthings over the years. Our parents passed away in the last three years, both at the age of 90, and today we are running the operation. We are very excited to bring fun new games and toys to kids all over the globe. We hope to continue the Theora legacy and the endless stock of ideas and concepts. We will keep supplying fun and great moments to kids and families in many places for years to come.

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