Hanan “Bean” Sibel and a Children’s Book about a Penny and a Pushke

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 (tzedakah box). “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.

“Parents can read the story and teach their youngsters the value of charity and what it means to save. Hopefully, this will be a starting point for families to discuss causes they are interested in. Maybe they’ll visit someone in a nursing home or do something to save animals. And that will lead to a commitment to give back and hopefully gravitate to an agency of The Associated.”

Bean, who has a long history of giving back, first became involved with The Associated as a young professional. Over the years, he and his late wife, Carole, held numerous leadership positions. Carole as chair of the board and Bean as founding chairman of the Maryland/Israel Development Center (MIDC). As founding chair, Bean was instrumental in forging the partnership between The Associated and the state of Maryland to create the MIDC as a joint program to promote bilateral trade and economic development between Maryland and Israel.

His commitment to Israel is rooted in his family’s presence there. His mother’s family immigrated to what was then Palestine, following the pogroms in Russia in 1913. They had to go to Turkey to get their visas which took two years. Today, he has numerous relatives living in Israel, all of whom served or are serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Always committed to Jewish life, Bean hopes that this book will make the concept of a pushke box relevant to the younger generation.

“A big part of being Jewish is helping others. I’d like to see the book and pushke help young families embrace the causes and Jewish values represented in the work of The Associated and its agencies.”

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