Hanukkah Veronica was born just the way you’d think a fairy should be — from a sincere wish and an act of love. Years later, a simple act of kindness, helped her to grow so she could spread her happy message to others.
Once upon a time, more than a dozen years ago, a 5-year-old girl named Lucy wanted an elf, the kind that sits on a shelf. Her mother, Julie Anne Cooper, told her that, instead of an elf, she would find her a special Hanukkah companion.
While Lucy was at school, Julie Anne went into her art room. She knew that Lucy loved fairies, so, “I pulled together a bunch of fabrics and created a soft doll and named her Hanukkah Veronica,” Julie Anne said. “Hanukkah Veronica performed mitzvahs.” Mitzvahs are acts of kindness.
All season long, Hanukkah Veronica would perform good deeds, surprising and delighting Julie Anne and her husband’s three children. There might be freshly baked cookies for an afterschool treat or a special gift for them to share. The Mitzvah Fairy became a family holiday tradition.
Family tradition inspires a book
Julie Anne Cooper worked with Wendy Brant in the real estate industry. The two live in the Atlanta area, and one holiday season, Julie Anne painted a watercolor based on a photograph Wendy took in Europe and presented it to her.
“It was such a kind gesture, a mitzvah,” Wendy said. “Our friendship grew stronger.”
While discussing art and other interests, Julie Anne told Wendy about her family’s holiday Hanukkah Veronica tradition. “I remember growing up as a young Jewish girl and how much I would have loved to have a character like this in our lives, and how much fun it would have been,” Wendy said.
Inspired by the story, Wendy told Julie Ann, “I think every family might love a Hanukkah Veronica.” Julie Anne agreed, and they decided to partner and bring Hanukkah Veronica to life. They developed a plush doll and a book to tell her story.
The story of “Hanukkah Veronica, the Mitzvah Fairy” centers around Lucy, who wishes for a holiday companion. When Hanukkah Veronica arrives, not only does Lucy make a friend, she also learns the power of kindness.
Wendy said that Italian illustrator Giovanni Lombardi helped bring their vision to life in the book. She also credits Rabbi Levi Mentz at the Chabad at Forsyth for his assistance with Hanukkah Veronica.
“We launched a successful Kickstarter in 2021 and we have been truly humbled by the response,” Wendy said. “The message of kindness and love seems to be much needed, especially now. The fact that the stories inspire an appreciation for the many cultures and traditions of the world seems to resonate with many people.”
More friends on the way
Cooper and Brandt hope Hanukkah Veronica is the first of the series of characters that will appear in future books. Christmas Chloe, Diwali Deepa, Kwanzaa Keisha, and Halloween Hannah are currently in the works, their website says.
“The characters are from around the world. They are friends and interact, as will be seen in the second book,” Wendy said. She said these stories offer a message of peace, love and kindness, with a focus on mitzvahs as a reminder that lasting joy comes from giving to others.
“The last few years have been a challenge and many people have struggled in a variety of ways, physically and mentally. As adults, in our personal lives, and even in our governments, many people seem to approach our issues with anger and fear. We have been focusing not on what we have in common but much more on our differences,” Wendy said.
Wendy Brant and Julie Anne Cooper, co-authors of “Hanukkah Veronica, the Mitzvah Fairy,” are scheduled to appear at noon on Sunday, Nov. 13, as part of the Book Festival of the MJCCA. They’ll appear at the Camp Isidore Alterman Main Stage at MJCCA Zaban Park, 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. Their appearance is open to the public without charge. Books will be available for purchase at the event. For more information: atlantajcc.org/bookfestival or 678-812-4005.