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.
“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.”
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.