For party planners, website creates custom photo ‘benchers’

Maya's Bat Mitzvah Bencher

THE TIMES OF ISRAEL
BY SHOSHANNA SOLOMON | February 21, 2017

Israel’s Let’s Bench company helps hosts hand out personalized, picture-filled prayer booklets as mementos

If you have a Jewish-related party coming up — a bar or bat mitzvah, wedding, fundraiser or any type of group event involving a sit-down meal — you may want to check out an online service from Israel that allows users to create personalized Grace After Meals booklets known as benchers (a Yiddish word commonly used by English speakers).

The Let’s Bench website, set up by two North American-born Israeli entrepreneurs allows users to create personalized benchers for their celebrations. These can be in the form of booklets, or two-to-four panel cards. Pictures, for example of a bar/bat mitzvah boy or girl, can be uploaded, resulting in a mini-photo album mixed with traditional blessings that guests can take home with them as a memento of the event.

“The idea is to create benchers that are customized but also easy to do, fun to prepare and also cheaper than what you could get if you prepare them in person with a printer,” said Daniel Laufer, 54, from Silver Spring, Maryland, who set up the business along with Torontonian Yitz Woolf, 41. “You get a booklet to take home at the end of the party with pictures of the kids who are now grown up — or of the milestones in the life of a couple with their families. It can be a very emotional experience for the families and friends.”

The basic custom bencher includes the Grace After Meals, wedding blessings and other blessings. The upgraded option includes prayer songs, Sabbath prayers and holiday additions.

Bert & Rita Schreiber Wedding Bencher created by Let’s Bench website

“No one is doing exactly what we are doing,” said Laufer. “We make the process easy and quick. People get back to us and say their guests marveled at the booklets, as it is not something anyone is used to seeing. Each birkon (the Hebrew word for bencher) is unique to each celebration.”

A quick online search for “benchers” reveals a number of websites in which you can order customized benchers, some with a photo on the cover, but the formats offered appear to be less flexible and more standardized than those offered by Let’s Bench.

At Let’s Bench, the modern and easy-to-read font is preset but everything else can be chosen and custom made. The user chooses the “nusah” or the version of prayers: Ashkenaz or Sephardic; Hebrew or Hebrew and English, egalitarian or traditional; Orthodox, Reform or Conservative. The range of available background colors includes “hot pink” and “lilac linen.” Then the desired content is selected — the blessings, songs and prayers — the number of picture pages is chosen, ranging from zero to 20, and cover page is created. Voila, your creation is ready.

Laufer, a longtime educator, came up with the idea for Let’s Bench when he wanted to create personal gifts for a group of North American students participating in an Israel program he directed.

“Rather than just giving them any book, I thought it would be nicer to take pictures of them from their trip and put them in a bencher,” he said. “They took home tangible memories and also could use the booklet.”

Ashira Silverman’s Bat Mitzvah bencher created via Let’s Bench

The minimum order is 100 units for cards and 25 units for booklets, with prices varying based on size and quality. For 150 benchers, the price range is $1.99 per two-panel bencher to $7.49 for a Hebrew/English booklet that includes zemirot (Sabbath songs). The benchers are produced and printed in Israel and then mailed out, with the company saying its product will reach anywhere in the world within three to five days.

“It is very important for us that our clients know the product is being created in Israel. It gives that added dimension to the product they receive,” Laufer said.

The Jerusalem-based company is targeting mainly the Jewish North American population for now, but has also done benchers in French and Spanish and has supplied to customers in the UK, South America and Australia as well. The company may also target non-Jewish events in the future, said Laufer.

Share this Post

How to plan the perfect candy buffet

Israel Candies for Events

At the end of a wonderful evening spent celebrating with family and friends, you want your guest feeling like you’ve saved the best for last. Forget traditional desserts, there are so many new and exciting ways to delight your guests’ senses and palettes. Instead of the overused chocolate soufflé and apple tart, try something new and exciting. Just Google “Dessert buffet” and you will see a myriad of amazing displays. Do you like ice cream? Don’t just serve 1 or 2 flavors; create an old-fashioned ice cream parlor. Or is popcorn your thing? Instead of presenting only 1 kind, offer a variety of types and treat your guests to a fabulous popcorn bar. Or if you prefer to go the healthy route, turn a fruit plate into an exciting display of exotic fruits and shakes. The possibilities are endless and they give your guest a chance to choose
their own desserts in a fun filled way.

But if you really want to make a splash how about a candy buffet. Not only is the candy delicious, but the color and presentation will enhance the overall décor of your simcha. Candy buffets give a unique edge to any occasion. And you can have a candy bar anywhere- a birthday party, wedding, conference, bar and bat mitzvah and even a family reunion. Make guests of any age feel like a kid in a candy store!

Choose a color scheme

Use coordinating candies as well as a variety of decorative elements to enhance your decor. There is really no limit when it comes to designing a creative buffet. For a kid-focused event, choose the rainbow color scheme, using some single-color candies as well as a variety of candies that are mixed colors. At baby events like a bris or simchat bat, focus on all pink or all blue displays. For a more sophisticated look, choose black & white, gold & white, silver & navy blue…

Volume

Are you serving other desserts as well, or just candy? If the candy will be a major part of your dessert buffet, provide enough for guests to enjoy at your event as well as take some home with them. A general rule of thumb is about ½ lb per guest (or ¼ kilo).

The Look

Is your overall décor elegant or whimsical? If elegant is what you are after, then glassware is the way to go. And if more playful and whimsical is what you’re looking for consider using bins and other fun containers.

Who are your guests?

If your guests are mostly children, you’ll need a nice variety of fun candies. The most popular are gummies in all flavors and shapes. For adults, include more sophisticated options as well, like chocolate and nuts. But just remember, grown-ups love candy too! The most important thing to remember is to have fun!!!


 
 

Tamar Lustman and Rahel Yaish are the co-owners of Candy Corner. They specialize in candy buffets (https://www.candycornerisrael.com/buffets), as well as gift baskets for all occasions. Visit their website at www.candycornerisrael.com. They can be reached at:
email: [email protected]
Israeli numbers: 052-616-3433 and 054-942-1188
US numbers: 516-782-3003 or 410-844-5237
Facebook: Candy Corner Israel
Instagram: @candycornerisrael
All products used are certified kosher OU and/or Badatz

Share this Post

Adventures in Benching

Bencher Capitalists

Jerusalem Post

BY ARIEL DOMINIQUE HENDELMAN APRIL 27, 2017 17:55
Let’s Bench takes tradition into the future

Reciting birkat hamazon (the grace after meals, or benching, in the colloquial English expression of the Yiddish term) is the traditional time when Jews come together after a meal to give thanks to God. People often collect benchers from weddings and bar and bat mitzvas, which are made available at the end of the meal for all guests to enjoy.

Daniel Laufer and Yitz Woolf, founders of Let’s Bench, want to take benchers to the next level.

“The inspiration for Let’s Bench happened a few years ago,” Laufer recalls.

“I had been working for more than 20 years in Jewish education in a program for high-school kids through Ramah. At the end of the program I wanted to give them a gift that had Jewish value and reflected their experience in Israel. I put pictures in a bencher. It came out really well; the kids and parents loved it, and everybody thought it was a great idea.

“It evolved from there. Yitz and I saw that it was something that could really make people happy at their weddings and other events. We created a user-friendly online app.”

The Let’s Bench website is similar to online self-publishing photo albums like Snapfish, but its more streamlined approach makes it possible for anyone to go online and create the bencher that they want for their event. Users choose their nusach (Sephardi, Ashkenazi or Chabad) background color and content, get a template and customize. They can upload and position their photographs in a simple manner, insert logos, drawings, designs and more.

Woolf and Laufer emphasize that anything that can be uploaded as a jpeg file can be used.

“The idea was to create something not overwhelming, easy to approach,” Laufer says.

“The idea is to make it a relatively quick and pleasurable experience. In addition to booklets, we offer folding laminated cards. There are different price points, with the booklet being the more premium product.”

The Let’s Bench website includes a library of photos taken by Woolf, an accomplished photographer, enabling users to include Israel and family photos. Laufer and Woolf relate that the parents of an aspiring photographer who was becoming bar mitzva made his benchers into his first portfolio. Similarly, the benchers can serve as a kind of calling card for an organization, with pictures of their community and their story. People then take it home with them and use it again and again, unlike a typical business card. Laufer and Woolf’s most recent order was from the Shalva organization, that wanted benchers for its celebratory Shabbat after the disabled Jerusalem marathon.

“We’re creating a moment,” Woolf adds. “It’s your bencher with your story. We have a drawer full of benchers at my sister’s house, yet people always grab the ones with photos. They’re beautiful, modern, clean – wonderful to look at. People want to have them as a keepsake that conveys something. Whether a wedding anniversary or a corporate event, it tells the story in a unique way.

Moreover, if someone’s grandmother can’t make it to the event in Israel, you can send her one of these. It’s like a PowerPoint presentation and party favor combined, reflecting the unique perspective of the family or whoever is putting on the event.”

Laufer and Woolf upgrade the Let’s Bench application constantly. They are focusing now on building up the business; learning about search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing on social media.

“We’re a bencher company and now we’re learning all the aspects of a startup,” Woolf states.

The focus on treating Let’s Bench more like a start-up arose when Laufer and Woolf relaunched the company in December. It had been in existence for a number of years before that as a side project, but marketing was solely word of mouth. They affectionately refer to themselves as bencher capitalists.

“I left my career as a Jewish educator to enter the entrepreneurial world and try to make Let’s Bench a success,” Laufer says.

“Working with people and managing an organization has its own excitement; there’s a certain challenge in taking an idea and making it into a successful business. We get such amazing feedback, so I’m really optimistic about the future. Now we’re really marketing it to get Let’s Bench out there. We’ve made hundreds of benchers so far and I think it will continue to grow.”

One of the strengths of the benchers is their incredible versatility, appealing to Orthodox, Conservative and Reform alike. They make benching more enjoyable for children, who love looking at the pictures.

“In this day and age, where looking at photography is so much a part of social media, this is a throwback and something modern,” Laufer notes.

“Birkat hamazon is more than a religious custom. It’s a moment where people gather together and sing. It’s done all over the world at all kinds of Jewish events.

“Our product gets used and reused regularly, creating an opportunity for people to recall and reminisce. It makes people feel good. One family told us that when they broke out the benchers at their simha, people looked at them and there was this moment of awe. It was special and moving.

“That’s what we’re trying to sell; the opportunity for you to give something out that really tells your story.”

For more information: http://letsbench.com/

Do I need wedding benchers and what should I choose?

Wedding Benchers

Wedding Benchers? Definitely!

Do you save wedding benchers in a drawer and bring them out at the end of a meal? It’s always fun to look at the benchers from various simchas and think back about that wedding and the couple who tied the knot that day. That’s why a bencher is a great keepsake to give out at a wedding, creating a party favor to offer at the event, a way of remembering a wonderful day, months and years after the party.

What about benching?

And, there’s also, benching. At many weddings, the communal benching with Sheva Brachot happens at the end of the meal (rightly so) but, by then some of the guests have already left. The good thing is that the guests still at the wedding get to open your personalized bencher and get a glimpse of what’s inside, while the other guests will first use them at their home. A stack of benchers on each table makes a statement that this event is also a seudat mitzvah, a celebratory meal.

So, yes, you need wedding benchers at a Jewish wedding as a keepsake, a Jewish party favor and a reinforcement of participation in a seudat mitzvah. All good.

How do you choose which wedding bencher? You can always head to an online site or your local Jewish bookstore and add your name to the cover of an already existing bencher and the job is done. I would look at the choices as follows: Price, style and content. Price is obvious. If you want to save money, then choose an inexpensive bencher and you’re done. Style is more complex. There are card benchers and booklet benchers… siddur benchers, and parasha benchers. You can find benchers that include Shabbat zemirot and there are those that have attractive designs. Of course, this segues into the third issue of content. Do you want a simple item that just includes the actual benching? Or, do you want zemirot, other prayers, or maybe full songbooks? These options are based on personal preference (and price, perhaps). I suggest thinking about what you like from the benchers you use at home and start there.

Think about personalizing your bencher.

Today, there is another choice available. You can personalize your wedding benchers with artwork and photographs, creating an arresting keepsake and a fun way to fulfill the mitzvah of benching, saying Grace after Meals. Instead of another bag of Jordan almonds, you can give your guests a beautiful and personalized album from your wedding. Let’s Bench can help keep the price reasonable and make a bencher that includes both the style and the content of your choice, creating a party favor and something practical as well.

Bottom line? Order wedding benchers. Better yet, customize it to make it your own so that the next time people open their bencher drawer, they’ll see your beautiful creation and notice how it stands out. And they’ll remember your beautiful day, just as you do.

About the Author

Daniel Laufer

Facebook

Ten Super Creative Kids Purim Costumes

Purim Costumes – Making Memories.

Purim is around the corner – and now is the time to start thinking of costume ideas for your kids.

Here are a few really great costumes we found online and wanted to share with you.

Some of these costumes are super simple and require a bit of planning and very little effort – while some of them may require a bit of cardboard and spray paint, fabric, needle and thread – but the effort is always worth it – when you have those super cute family photos to look back on.

Up Purim Costume

Up
Costume chunky black glasses, balloons, plastic pipes and two tennis balls.


Dinosaur Purim Costume

Dinosaur
Cardboard and spray paint.


Leggy Purim Costume

Leggy
Adult sized jogging pants.


Einstein Purim Costume

Einstein
White costume mad scientist wig, cotton or white paint for eyebrows and mustache.


Big Bird Purim Costume

Big Bird
Orange foam board, yellow feathers.


Squid Purim Costume

Squid
Red. white and black felted wool or similar material.


Frieda Kalo Purim Costume

Frieda
Flower headband, eyeliner, big colorful earrings, bright dress and colorful sari.


Lucky Troll Purim Costume

Lucky Troll
Purple temporary hair dye, hairspray.


Bubble Gum Machine Purim Costume

Bubble Gum Machine
Multicolored pompoms, glue gun, grey and black felt.


Minecraft Purim Costume

Minecraft
Cardboard, paint.


About the Author

Yitz Woolf

Facebook

Bar & Bat Mitzvah Photography Checklist

So you booked a Bar Mitzvah photographer (or Bat Mitzvah photographer). Or maybe a friend of the family is a photographer and is offering to help out. That’s great – photography is essential in capturing an important family milestone.

It’s a huge moment for the child who is coming of age – it’s his or her moment – their rite-of-passage to adulthood. They may have spent a better part of the year preparing for this – learning their Torah portion and studying more about their Jewish heritage and their role in the Jewish community.

It’s also a huge milestone for the parents and grandparents. It marks one of the special lifecycle moments for the family – bringing everyone together for this big event.

Below is a checklist that we put together to help make sure that you can capture – and not miss out on or forget – all kinds of ‘Kodak moments’ for your family albums and benchers.

If you have any suggestions or additions for this list – please let us know so that we can add them.

Mazal Tov!

Bar / Bat Mitzvah Photography Checklist



Download this checklist in PDF: Bar/Bat Mitzvah Photography Checklist

Author

Yitz Woolf

Facebook

Here are 7 Clever Ways to Make Your Family Simcha Special:

Jewish Wedding

How do you make your simcha meaningful and fun at the same time? We have seen many families try so hard to customize their bar mitzvah, bat mitzvah, or wedding that the ‘simcha’ can get lost in the shuffle. Here are seven ideas to think about when planning your family communal experience. Of course, there are many more ideas than these… Enjoy! Maybe you’ll adopt some of these (and send us some of your own).

  1. Invite 2nd tier friends.
    Don’t skimp when it comes to inviting peripheral friends. In the long run, the added cost is well worth the friendships strengthened by your gesture.
  2. Personalize your event.
    There’s nothing like the family pictures that welcome guests at the door. But, go one step further. Make a bencher with family photos built in. You can create a simple card bencher with only 4-6 photos and a customized cover or go all the way with a booklet bencher that is a memorable keepsake album of your family simcha. Lets Bench! can help with all of that.
  3. Make a short and sweet video.
    Guests love the presentation but it doesn’t need to be more than 5 minutes.
  4. Write a song (to the tune of your favorite folk song, etc.).
    Be sure to include lots of funny ‘roasting’ elements that are well known. Practice singing it ahead of time.
  5. Perform a dance.
    Learn and teach a bunch of family/friends an easy dance to perform for the bride and groom or bar mitzvah / bat mitzvah star. Remember to practice ahead of time but, also don’t worry if it’s not perfect. The thought is what counts and people really like it.
  6. Designate a close family member or friend to help run the show.
    Ask a family member or close friend who is organized and great under pressure to help answer questions and deal with any crisis so you are able to focus on all the fun and not on putting out fires.
  7. Stay calm.
    Breath. Remember it’s a simcha. And despite all the crazy preparations, the simcha – literally ‘happiness’ is what really matters.
About the Author

Daniel Laufer

Facebook