Rabbi Benjamin's Buttons

By: Alice B. McGinty / Illustrated by: Jennifer Black Reinhardt

“A happy congregation is the sunshine of my heart.”

Rabbi Benjamin loves his congregation, and they love him. That’s why on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the Rabbi’s congregation presents him with a special holiday vest with four silver buttons and decorated with designs symbolizing the major holidays celebrated throughout the year. Rabbi Benjamin loves it! He also loves all the holiday treats that his families proudly fill him with-including delicious, crispy latkes; scrumptious matzoh-ball soup; irresistible apple torte; and honey cake.

As the year passes, Rabbi Benjamin’s beautiful vest stretches tighter and tighter across his belly, and one by one the shiny silver buttons pop!-pop!-pop! off. When summer comes, Rabbi helps his congregation with their gardening, with the hiding of Chanukah presents, with the apple picking, and the fishing. Will all this hard work help Rabbi fit into his beautiful vest when Rosh Hashanah rolls around again?

A charming tale of the joys of community and celebration, with a subtle message of enjoying in moderation and staying healthy. An easy way to keep fit: lend a helping hand.

Jennifer Black Reinhardt’s deliciously sweet illustrations highlight the humor and love that this close-knit congregation shares. Back matter includes traditional holiday recipes and a glossary of terms.

Awards & Honors

  • Sydney Taylor Book Award Notable, Young Readers Category
  • PJ Library Book
  • Delaware Diamonds reading list


“… McGinty’s (Gandhi: A March to the Sea) loving, lighthearted prose is as sunshiny as her characters, while Reinhardt’s (The Adventures of a South Pole Pig) detailed watercolors depict a diverse congregation brimming with endearing idiosyncrasies and mutual affection—a real mishpochah.”

Publishers Weekly, starred review


“… Diversity is celebrated in the cheerful watercolor and ink illustrations, which include mixed-race and single-parent families in the congregation, as well as a dad flouting traditional gender roles as he cooks and takes care of his baby. These holidays provide a framework for the story but are not the focus. The many universal themes are more central to the book than the Jewish content and make it appropriate for general audiences. The four recipes (one for each holiday) will also appeal across cultures. A pleasant story that can be used year-round as a celebration of Jewish heritage, the love of community, and the importance of eating right.”

School Library Journal


“… Reinhardt’s illustrations of the bearded rabbi, who favors not only cheery vests but also high-water black pants, are done in watercolor and ink. The book includes a one-page glossary of Judaic terms and recipes for honey cake, fruit strudel, latkes, and matzo ball soup.”

Association of Jewish Libraries


“… There’s much joy in this cheery holiday book, from the spry text’s kid-pleasing sound effects (pop! splat! plop! splish-splash!), to casually presented but informative details about each holiday, to the matter-of-fact depiction of a range of Jewish families in the detail-filled watercolor and ink illustrations, to that bright-yellow, menorah-festooned vest–which is ugly in the way that all good holiday garments are. Back matter includes information about and recipes for each holiday and a glossary.”

The Horn Book Magazine


“… Reinhardt’s watercolor-and-ink illustrations are well suited to this sunny, slyly humorous text: at each holiday, families ply the rabbi with delectable goodies, and buttons always pop into the festive foods. Concluded with recipes and a glossary, this makes a good introduction to the cycle of Jewish holidays. (The gentle caution about overeating is a bonus.)”