What’s Jewish about teddy bears?

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

This week we explored: What’s Jewish about teddy bears? Teddy bears give comfort to children and to adults. Teddy bears are good listeners. When children play with teddy bears, they are embodying Jewish values. We began simply by talking about teddy bears — and it is always better to talk while you are holding a special bear. Here are some of the Jewish values we talked about:

Ahavah — love: There are many kinds of love. Ahavah is a Jewish value that teaches love and respect for other people and all of G-d’s creations.

Dibuk chaverim — cleaving to friends: This value goes beyond having friends to developing relationships with trust and devotion.

G’milut chasadim — acts of loving kindness: These deeds go beyond simple kindnesses to spelling out the real-life moments in which we need to take care of each other.

Tza’ar ba’alei chayim — kindness to animals: According to Jewish law, we must always treat animals kindly because they are G-d’s creatures.

B’tzelem Elohim — created in the image of G-d: This does not mean that we look like G-d or that G-d has a body or face. People are created with the ability to reason and know good from bad. When we talk about each person being created in the image of G-d, we must remember to pay attention to what is holy about each person and to model our behavior after that of G-d.

History of the teddy bear

Teddy Roosevelt was the president of the United States about 100 years ago. One day (in 1902) he went on a bear hunt but couldn’t find any bears to hunt. Finally, a friend brought him a baby bear but Teddy Roosevelt would not hurt the bear cub. A Jewish couple in New York, Morris and Rose Michtom, heard about Teddy and the bear. Rose sewed a stuffed bear and called it Teddy’s Bear. After that, everyone wanted a Teddy Bear. All the money from selling Morris and Rose’s teddy bears, they gave to tzedakah to help others.

Teddy bears may not be created in the image of G-d, but each one is unique and very special. If we practice each of the Jewish values with our teddy bears, it is good practice to help us treat all people (and animals) with the same respect and love.

P.S.: Check out “Great Bear Family Stories: Beni’s Family Treasury: Stories for the Jewish Holidays” by Jane Breskin Zalben.

Shalom…from the Shabbat Lady.

Laura Seymour is Jewish experiential learning director and camp director emeritus at the Aaron Family JCC.

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