An enterprising elementary school student, Chanan Finkelstein, has taken to the popular crowd-funding website Kickstarter with a new, custom-made Jewish Lego toy — the Brickovicker Rebbe, the first of a new sect of Lego Chasidim.
Chanan, 10, a fourth-grader at Ohr Chadash Academy of Baltimore started the project because wanted the Lego Death Star. At a whopping $500 retail though, it is a toy that most parents consider unreasonably expensive.
However, Tobey Finkelstein, Chanan’s mother, crowd-funds for nonprofit organizations professionally and saw trying to earn the funds for the Lego set as a good learning opportunity for her son. The only e lement lacking was a product to sell.
Inspiration struck when a neighbor of the Finkelsteins, Aaron Polun, came over for Shabbat. He put a tire on the head of a Lego mini-figure and joked about it being a Lego Rebbe.
“I told [Chanan], maybe you could try to Kickstart these Lego Chasidim; you can custom make them,” said Tobey. “He got to learn how to promote it, I showed him different online tools, and he made a little Facebook page showing these Lego builds.”
Chanan went about setting up his Kickstarter page for the project with a goal of $1,200. This would cover the Lego Death Star set he wanted in addition to the costs of custom individual Lego pieces for the Rebbes, the printing of the “Chasid” logo on different pieces, the Kickstarter fees and shipping. The project’s funding ended on March 26.
Thirty-four backers pledged $1,543, far more than either Chanan or Tobey expected. Depending on how much money they pledged, each backer will receive a number of custom-made Lego Rebbes and membership at the first intergalactic synagogue, Beis Death Star Kochav Chaim, which Chanan will convert from the Death Star once he has built it.
“[This type of project] is essentially a modern-day lemonade stand for kids,” said Tobey. “Instead of sitting outside for hours and making $5, he did this and made $1,500! We thought it would be just our friends and neighbors, but more than half of the people who backed the project, we don’t know them. It was cool to see my kid go through the same process as my adult clients.”
Tobey said her son messaged 23 people in one night and reached his goal the next day.
Chanan is excited to have raised so much money and eager to begin construction on the Lego project. “Some of the money is going to go toward making sure that we are able to make the synagogue,” he said. “We’re going to add a therapy room at the top and a room for kids to go when their parents are davening. I was very surprised at how many people helped.”
A blueprint on the Kickstarter page also suggest that the Death Star synagogue will include a room for the minyan, a separate section for women and, of course, a chair for the Rebbe.