By Maggie Goldman
Every year at Hanukkah, quirky menorahs abound. There are niche menorahs for book-lovers, puzzle-lovers and wine-lovers. Consider yourself a tech geek? This circuit board menorah is right up your alley. Planning to be on the road during Hanukkah? With this car menorah, you can take the Festival of Lights on the road. Even the most die-hard “Star Wars” fan can find a menorah that will keep The Force strong throughout the holiday. In other words, there’s no shortage of creative menorahs in the world.
But a special, once-in-a-lifetime holiday like Thanksgivukkah calls for a once-in-a-lifetime menorah to accompany it. Enter 9-year-old Asher Weintraub, the fourth-grader from New York City who dreamed up the new menorah taking the Jewish corner of the Internet by storm: the Menurkey.
As its portmanteau name indicates, the Menurkey is a menorah shaped like a turkey, an idea Asher came up with when he learned that his two favorite holidays would coincide. In August, Asher and his dad, Anthony, launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the $25,000 needed to fund the project, but when it went viral, they raised more than $48,000. Their site calls the Menurkey “an amazing conversation starter, an objet d’art, a functioning menorah and the perfect centerpiece for your Thanksgivukkah table.”
JewishBoston.com caught up with Asher and Anthony to learn more about the Menurkey just in time for Thanksgivukkah.
Asher, you dreamed up the Menurkey as soon as you heard that Hanukkah and Thanksgiving would overlap. Can you tell us more about what led to the idea?
Asher: When we were driving home from Florida after the holiday break last year, my mom told me that Hanukkah and Thanksgiving were going to be on the same day this year. So I thought, “What if there was a menorah in the shape of a turkey?” Then I asked if there already was one, and mommy looked it up and found nothing, so we decided we would try to make it. She then asked me what I would call it, and I said “The Menurkey.” I love both Hanukkah and Thanksgiving, so the idea just came to me as the best way to celebrate both.
How did you come up with the name “Menurkey”? Why not, say, a “Turknorah”?
Asher: I just thought menorah and turkey…Menurkey! It sounded better to me than anything else. For example, after I thought of it, my dad thought it should be “Menorkey” because it has one more letter in it from the word “menorah,” but “Menurkey” sounds so much better.
What compelled you to pursue this idea beyond your family’s personal holiday celebration and share it with the broader community?
Anthony: My wife and I recognized that this was a great idea, and we like to encourage our kids to follow through with ideas because execution is such a big part of creating something. We’re both film producers and content creators, and so we’re in the idea business. Ideas have such inherent power, but they’re really just ideas until you develop them and pursue them and follow them.
Your Kickstarter campaign nearly doubled its goal! What was the initial response you received from friends, family and the community when this project launched? How did you garner support and spread the word?
Anthony: It was Asher who pushed to put this on Kickstarter in the first place. I was skeptical—and fearful of putting my 9-year-old on the site—but after much pushing from Asher, we did it, and the rest is history.
Asher: I was so excited to see the Kickstarter become as successful as it did. I am a big fan of Kickstarter and have supported projects before and watched as they got support and were successful. So I thought we would be successful.
Anthony: After a few days of the campaign, it was pretty clear it had taken flight. Initially it was just our friends who responded, but soon the idea had a life of its own. We got a lot of attention on social media and in the press right away. And happily, there was no skepticism or cynicism around the project. It’s been nothing but encouragement.
So many other people are now invested in the Menurkey—both literally and figuratively! What does the support of the community mean to you in bringing the Menurkey to life?
Anthony: The support of the community means everything to the project, which is why it’s so appropriate that we did this initial funding on Kickstarter. It showed us that people really did care about this crazy menorah in the shape of a turkey. People are so engaged by the notion of a hybrid holiday, especially one that is so unique. It’s such a fun idea to bring a turkey and a menorah together, but this would be nothing without the enthusiasm of the community. Finding the help we needed to bring this to fruition has been challenging. It’s a very short time frame to make a product, but every step of the way we’ve found amazing people to help us. It feels like there is some other force at work here, like that great turkey up in the sky.
How will your family celebrate Thanksgiving this year? Will there be any specific Menurkey-related fanfare?
It will certainly be a special Thanksgiving for us this year. We’re thinking of doing a special Menurkey party at some point—perhaps the second night of Hanukkah—to celebrate.
The day after a much-anticipated event always brings on some “It’s over?!” feelings. What happens for the Weintraubs when Thanksgivukkah has passed? What cool things can we expect from you in the future?
We joke all the time about how many ideas our kids have, and there are definitely other things in the mix. Now that we’ve done this, I’m sure there is another product or two out there that’s worthy of the moniker “brought to you by the people who brought you the Menurkey.”
Maggie Goldman is a social media strategist and freelance writer living in New Jersey and pining for New England.