The Traveling Mitzvah Bear


— by Annette Powers

Twelve adorable stuffed bears departed from the Union for Reform Judaism’s (URJ) New York offices on a journey to over 100 early childhood centers in Reform congregations throughout the United States and Canada.

Izzy is looking at the Torah with some Ganon Gil Preschool friends while we were learning about Simchat Torah (Beachwood, Ohio).

Each of the bears — Bernie, Benny, Goldie, Hannah, Herbie, Izzy, Lily, Moishe, Rose, Sadie, Saul and Sylvia — will visit these centers over the 2011-2012 school year to teach young children about the importance of doing mitzvot (good deeds) and the value of hachnasat orchim (hospitality/welcoming the guest.) Each bear comes with a journal, the book Bim and Bom: A Shabbat Tale and ideas about what to do with the bears.

More after the jump.


Rose arrived at Glasser Preschool in Oak Park, IL just in time to make challah for Shabbat!

Some of the suggestions on the list include: preparing the students ahead of time by teaching them about mitzvot and hachnasat orchim, taking pictures of the bear doing good deeds with the students and making cards for the students who will meet the bear next on his travels.

The journal can be used for recording any photos, drawings, or writings related to the bears’ experiences while visiting. Participants can also share on the URJ Traveling Mitzvah Bears Facebook event page.

The book Bim and Bom by Daniel Swartz, donated by The PJ Library, illustrates the importance of mitzvot. The story tells of Bim and her brother Bom who work hard all week, and then spend Fridays doing good deeds. At sundown, they joyfully meet to celebrate the Jewish Sabbath together.

“The Traveling Mitzvah Bear program is a creative and fun way to instill young children with some of the most essential Jewish values,” said Cathy Rolland, URJ’s director of early childhood education, “We look forward to seeing the many creative ways early childhood educators will find to use these bears and the reactions of the children who get to enjoy them.”

Hannah came to B’nai Jehudah Preschool in Kansas. She helped us celebrate Shabbat!

“Our bear just arrived and we are anxious to introduce him to our students and start taking pictures and making memories,” said Arlene Kaufman, director of Temple Trager Early Childhood Education Center in Louisville, Kentucky. “This is such an exciting and innovative program. What a wonderful way to bring our Jewish schools together.”

The bears will gather at the Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism (ECE-RJ) booth at the 2011 URJ Biennial convention in December as a stop-over during their extensive travels.