Growing up in the ghetto of West Baltimore during the Great Depression, Hanan “Bean” Sibel recalls that his family really “didn’t have much.”
Crowded in a small home with 13 people – grandparents, parents and kids – this close-knit family would even take in relatives who immigrated to the United States.
Despite the family’s financial hardships, Bean remembers they always had at least one pushke (tzedakahbox). “Whether it was for The Associated, our synagogue, HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) or another Jewish cause, whenever we had coins, we would drop them in.”
The beauty of the pushke and what it taught him about Jewish values shaped his decision to start this project. There are many in our community who are not engaged in the tradition and duty of giving. “I hope an old-fashioned tzedakah box and our story helps them reconnect.”
With that in mind, he wondered, why not create a children’s book that taught young children the concept of tzedakah and savings. Working with The Associated, he approached Allan Charles, a longtime friend who is the Chairman and Chief Creative Officer at TBC, a Baltimore advertising agency. Allan jumped at the opportunity to produce the book. His agency wrote the story and created the drawings pro bono.
The result is a beautifully-illustrated children’s book, The Little Penny and the Pushke. It tells the story of a little penny, forgotten in a drawer, who is discovered by a young girl and placed in a pushke box. While sitting there with other coins, the penny discovers all the ways he could do good for the community.
The Little Penny and the Pushke is being packaged with a small tzedakah box designed for children. “We decided to make the box smaller than normal, so it would fill faster, and kids won’t become impatient,” he says. The book and box are totally supported through a grant from the Hanan & Carole Sibel Family Foundation.
Bean believes it is the perfect way to get families involved in giving.