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Bagels from Benny

Children's Book Review and Discussion Guide

Title: Bagels from Benny
Author: Aubrey Davis
Illustrator: Dušan Petričić
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Intended for Ages: 5-6 years
Jewish Customs: Ma'achil Re'evim (feeding the hungry); Tikkun Olam (repairing the world); Partnership with God
Additional Topics Mentioned: Gratitude for the Blessings in Life, Paying it Forward

Synopsis

This book retells an ancient Jewish folk tale. Benny's grandfather runs a bakery, which has the best bagels in town. When people thank Benny's grandpa for the bagels, he says that God is the one who should be thanked. Benny comes up with a creative way to thank God for the bagels. He doesn't know that his actions will have a surprising result.

Highlights

  • This story emphasizes the importance of being grateful for the blessings in your life. While Benny's grandfather could have basked in the success of his bakery, he maintains his modesty and expresses gratitude to God, who created the earth that provides the flour for the delicious bagels that he bakes. Inspired by his grandfather, Benny also expresses gratitude towards God for the bagels. A poor man who finds the bagels feels blessed and manages to better his life, even when all he has is the bagels. This story therefore reminds us of how important it is not to dwell on what we lack, but rather be grateful for what we do have in our lives.
  • A generous attitude inspires generosity in others. Benny doesn't settle for just feeling grateful, he takes action and expresses the gratitude for the blessings in his life by putting bagels in the Holy Ark for God. What he doesn't anticipate is that a man in need would find his bagels and be fed for weeks. The poor man subsequently manages to get back on his feet and vows to pay it forward and help others. When we perform acts of kindness and generosity, we can inspire kindness and generosity in others and make the world a better place.

Jewish Topics for Family Discussion

  • The mitzvah of ma'achil re'evim (feeding the hungry): A focal Jewish value that this story highlights is feeding the hungry. Benny decides to thank God by placing warm, fresh bagels in the Holy Ark, and unknowingly feeds a hungry man, who finds them. When Benny first finds out, he is disappointed that God hasn't received the bagels. His grandfather quickly makes him realize that by helping someone in need, he thanked God in the best of ways. As Jews, feeding the hungry is seen as one of the most important responsibilities we have on this earth. It is seen not as an act of charity, but as an act of justice. You and your family can perform this mitzvah at any given time by donating food to a food pantry or volunteering at a soup kitchen.
  • Tikkun Olam (repairing the world): A central tenet of Reform Judaism that this book explores is tikkun olam; by caring for others in this world, we hope to make it a better place. By placing the bagels in the Holy Ark, Benny feeds a hungry man. With food in his stomach, this man manages to find a job and vows to help others, just like he was aided when he was in need. Benny therefore manages to make a difference in another person's life, who will now go on to positively impact others. You and your family can explore the many ways to be positively involved, and find one that will be meaningful to you. You can create a family tradition of charitable giving, no matter how much you are able to set aside every week. You can also volunteer your time, donate old clothes to a local charity or be kind to the earth by recycling. Talk to your children about the importance of performing these acts of kindness and show them that even if they are little — they can make a big difference in the world.

Bagels from Benny was mailed to 5-6 year-old children in February 2011 as part of their PJ Library® subscription. PJ Library® provides the gift of free Jewish books and music to families raising Jewish children between the ages of 6 months and 8 years. To find out if subscriptions are available in your area, please visit the PJ Library®-URJ-WRJ Partnership page.