Rabbi Benjamin's Buttons

illus. by Jennifer Black Reinhardt. 32p. ebook available. Charlesbridge. Aug. 2014. RTE $17.95. ISBN 9781580894326. LC 2012038695.
K-Gr 2—Rabbi Benjamin has a loving relationship with his congregants, who present him with a holiday vest one Rosh Hashanah as a token of their esteem. During Sukkot, Chanukah, and Passover, he overindulges in the treats cooked up by his friends. One by one, his buttons pop off as his stomach expands. Instead of despairing, the man spends the summer helping his friends with tasks that give him a good workout, and by the following Rosh Hashanah, he is pleased to accept a wonderful new vest (with the retrieved buttons) to replace the stretched and battered old one. A number of positive themes run through this story: community, hospitality, health, problem solving. Diversity is celebrated in the cheerful watercolor and ink illustrations, which include mixed-race and single-parent families in the congregation, as well as a dad flouting traditional gender roles as he cooks and takes care of his baby. These holidays provide a framework for the story but are not the focus. The many universal themes are more central to the book than the Jewish content and make it appropriate for general audiences. The four recipes (one for each holiday) will also appeal across cultures. A pleasant story that can be used year-round as a celebration of Jewish heritage, the love of community, and the importance of eating right.—Heidi Estrin, Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL
Rabbi Benjamin's congregants present him with a Jewish holiday–themed vest on Rosh Hashanah, but feasting through Sukkot, Hanukkah, and Passover causes the rabbi to literally burst his buttons. There's much joy in this cheery holiday book, from kid-pleasing sound effects (pop! splat! plop!) to the depiction of a range of Jewish families. Information about and recipes for each holiday are appended. Glos.
"A happy congregation is the sunshine of my heart," proclaims Rabbi Benjamin. The love-fest goes both ways, and his congregants at the Walnut Street synagogue present him with a Jewish holiday-themed vest on Rosh Hashanah. After blowing the shofar, it's time to eat: homemade apple torte, honey cake, and more, "until his holiday vest stretched tightly across his belly." A couple of weeks pass; now it's Sukkot, and as Rabbi Benjamin feasts at each family's sukkah, all of that stuffed cabbage, sweet-potato pie, and fruit strudel cause him to quite literally burst one of his buttons -- "pop!" With first Hanukkah, then Passover still to come, the rest of those buttons don't stand a chance. "Oy-yoy-yoy…I've ruined my special holiday vest!" laments the rabbi as the last buttons fly off during the Goldwassers' Seder (one button lands in the horseradish, the other in the prophet Elijah's cup). A little physical activity throughout the summer and fall brings back his waistline…but what about his special present? Nisht gedeyget [don't worry]! When Rosh Hashanah rolls around again, the congregants have a little something up their sleeve. There's much joy in this cheery holiday book, from the spry text's kid-pleasing sound effects (pop! splat! plop! splish-splash!), to casually presented but informative details about each holiday, to the matter-of-fact depiction of a range of Jewish families in the detail-filled watercolor and ink illustrations, to that bright-yellow, menorah-festooned vest -- which is ugly in the way that all good holiday garments are. Back matter includes information about and recipes for each holiday and a glossary. elissa gershowitz

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing