For fair-goers accustomed to a phalanx of vendors selling elegant Judaica, jewelry, clothing, and a plethora of gift items at the Annual Jewish Fair and Expo at the YM-YWHA of Union County, the jazzy display of duct tape wallets must have come as somewhat of a surprise. Even more unexpected were the 10-year-old entrepreneurs behind the counter — twins Aharon and Moshe Heller of Elizabeth and their pal Yair Kimmel of West Orange.
The three boys, all fifth-graders at the Jewish Educational Center Yeshiva in Elizabeth, have combined their business savvy with what they’ve learned from home and school about tikun olam — doing good.
There were 30 vendors in all, and about 400 people came to the fair, so business was fairly brisk. When asked about sales, Moshe gleefully displayed a fistful of bills, but he also pointed out that he and his partners are giving 10 percent of their earnings to tzedaka.
The twins’ parents, Ira and Alysia Heller, strolling around the fair with two of their other children, confirmed that. Their grandmother Erika Sauerhof, of Hillside, was there too to cheer them on. The adults said the boys have done everything themselves, aside from getting a little graphic design help on their flyer from their dad, a lawyer also known in the community for his cantorial skills and musicianship.
Moshe, Aharon, and Yair started their business this past summer. They told NJ Jewish News they learned how to make the wallets from a video on YouTube. Using the tough, sticky tape in all kinds of colors and prints, they have designed wallets to order and to express their own passions — for sports teams and movie characters and for their school.
Most of their previous sales were to friends and family, but they offered their wares at the fair with the air of seasoned pros. Aharon, who loves art, is the main manufacturer, and on Sunday he was busy meticulously cutting and sticking together new wallets while Moshe and Yair handled the sales.
As their proud grandmother said the next day, “It was a great experience for the three of them, and they learned what it takes to make a living in the real world.”
Fair committee chair Marc Hilton said, as usual, that he wished even more people had come, but he was pleased with the experience afforded to both the public and the vendors.
He said, “Children and adults loved the Noah’s Ark petting zoo, and the adults showed a great interest in both the talk by Dennis Klein on Jewish history and the talk by [cooking teacher and author] Rochelle Rothman on ‘Eight Days Lite,’” a low-calorie approach to Hanukka.
“The fair accomplished its purpose,” said Hilton. “It provided a day of Jewish ethnicity, culture, fun, and entertainment for Central New Jersey — something we can all be very proud of.”