By Alanna Maya
Check it out: jbrick.com
JBrick is a family run business that creates Jewish-themed LEGO® sets using genuine LEGO® parts and pieces. Yitzy Kasowitz and his wife, Channie, created their first product, a 3-in-1 Menorah set (96 pieces with instructions to build two menorahs and one dreidel), which sold out in just one week. With nothing else like it on the market, the Kasowitz’s realized that the demand for high quality Jewish toys was out there, so they created JBrick.
Through a crowdfunding campaign hosted by Jewcer, a platform for Jewish projects seeking funding, JBrick was able to source some of the seed money they needed to buy parts for the next line of their popular sets. Today, menorahs are just one facet of their business. Tzedakah boxes, a few dreidel designs, a sukkah, Shabbat candles, mezuzah covers, a bar mitzvah playset and an Aron Kodesh playset (complete with rabbi!) are just some of their offerings.
“Our goal is to bring children and adults closer to their Jewish heritage through our fun products,” the company website states. All JBrick custom LEGO® sets are made with genuine LEGO® parts and come with detailed instructions for building the Jewish-themed sets. From Menorahs to Seder plates to Bar Mitzvah-themed sets with a Torah ark and bimah, and even a set that comes with a cantor, there is a Jewish-themed play set for everyone at JBrick.
L’Chaim Magazine: How did you come to be in the business of Jewish LEGO®s?
Yitzy Kasowitz: I always had a passion for LEGO® and for building. My grandfather was in construction; he was a glazer his whole life. As a kid, I liked all kinds of blocks, construction and building toys growing up. Anything that I could get my hands on that would allow me to build and construct things; I would do it. If I had a toy pickup truck, for instance, I would build a Sukkah mobile. I would pick up twigs and sticks with it, and build a sukkah [in the truckbed].
Later, I was hired by Brickmania (a company that makes modern military-themed LEGO® sets) as a LEGO® builder and designer.
LCM: How are you able to use the LEGO® name and genuine LEGO® pieces legally?
YK: LEGO® has a policy that they will not make any modern military or religious pieces, so that works out really well for us, since they won’t build these sets. We use existing LEGO® elements, and just like you can resell your LEGO® pieces at a garage sale, and use the LEGO® name, we can do that same. But they know about us, and allow us to use their pieces and their trademark, as long as we follow certain rules that they have laid out.
The most difficult thing about the business is that the LEGO® company doesn’t give us a break. We have to purchase all of the LEGO® product at retail price. But using genuine Lego® brick is important to us, because the quality is there.
LCM: How much work goes into constructing each JBrick set?
YK: It’s a little bit of a process. We purchase loose Lego® brick from a retail location, separate the pieces that are needed to complete one of our sets, and package them with instructions. Occasionally, there is a piece that we have to get from another Lego® set, and we will literally piece a set out, just to get that particular brick to complete our set. I work with someone who prints on Lego® pieces, in particular, the IDF uniforms for our IDF soldier minifig (the small figurines that live in Lego®), to make sure that everything has the exact look that we want.
In terms of developing new sets, I think of something that I want to build, work on building it and try to figure out the best way to do it. Then, I will write out the instructions and I give the parts and instructions to a friend or family member to test, to make sure that they directions are easy to follow and work. Once I have decided to create a particular set, I have to photograph the final product, edit the photos, and get the images onto the packaging and the website. Then I have to put the whole thing up for sale, and push it out to social media channels. My wife is literally the other half of this; she takes care of all the finances and legal work, so we literally could not have this business without her. We are a small business, and we don’t have a large staff, but this is what I have always loved to do, and I am happy to add something to the world of Judaica, because it doesn’t change very often.
LCM: What’s next for JBrick?
YK: There are always a couple sets that are in the works. We have an ongoing list of projects that we are working on or developing. I would like to build a temple in Lego® to minifig scale, which is about 1/35 scale. It is quite a bit of work, quite a bit of design, and quite a bit of Lego® parts. I have been researching it for about two years so far, and I am still not quite done yet. There are still many, many details, and building it to scale makes thinks more complicated. It’s one of my dreams and I would like to accomplish it someday, to make a full-scale Lego ® temple that all the world can see. You know, nothing too crazy!