Calendar makers want a second helping of mensch

The Bay Area wants more mensch. That’s what Dana Hall and Elizabeth Shapiro discovered last year when their first “Mensch of the Month” benefit calendar surpassed their expectations and sold out after only two months.

Dan Halpner-Leistner, September 2012

Hall, 27, and Shapiro, 26, will therefore indulge the Bay Area again this year by publishing another calendar to benefit SMART, a local educational nonprofit. Bay Area menches (or “menschen” if you’re up on your Yiddish) have until May 15 to come forth and apply for a spot in the 2013 calendar.

Who is eligible for mensch-hood? Hall, Shapiro and a new team member, Lauren Zabel, 23, cast a wide net. Their criteria is that mensches must be male or identify as male/masculine and, in keeping with the Yiddish term, they must be doing something worthy of honor.

“We’re looking for menschen of all ages and orientations — as long as they are living in the Bay Area, single, Jewish, passionate about something and generous in some way,” Hall said.

Last year, Hall and Shapiro raised more than $1,900 for SMART between calendar sales and a Chanukah release party. The mensches pictured in the calendar ranged in ages from early 20s to mid-50s and included a rabbi, graduate students and nonprofit organizers.

In addition to performing an act of tikkun olam, these mensches also received other benefits.

“If you are actively looking, it’s a great way to meet people,” Hall noted.

Jason Reinin, April 2012

People who liked a particular mensch often contacted Hall and Shapiro (or SMART) to ask for contact information; others trying to track down mensches put their Internet investigative skills to use.

To apply to be in the calendar, prospective mensches must submit two photos and answer a few questions, such as: “Why do you want to be a mensch?” and “Who is your Jewish celebrity crush?” (But don’t answer “Natalie Portman” or “Mila Kunis,” as Hall and Shapiro find those responses way too common.)

In addition, friends, coworkers or family members can nominate people by filling out the short application form.

Hall, Shapiro and Zabel want to grow their project and partner with local Jewish organizations, but first they need more mensches.

“It can be hard to self-identify as a mensch, but we would like people to give it a try,” said Hall. “We think the whole thing is a really fun process and this could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

“Mensch of the Month” application and other information at www.menschofthemonth.com, or email menschofthemonth@gmail.com. SMART is the School, Mentoring and Resource Team; www.thesmartprogram.org.

George Altshuler
George Altshuler

George Altshuler is from San Francisco and was a calendar editor at J. He is a staff writer at the Washington Jewish Week.