Think back to six months or so ago when you first encountered the fidget spinner. (Yes, for anyone experiencing Trump-related time dilation, the fidget spinner craze happened this year.) At the time, did you think the toy was cool but that it could probably be more Jewish? Well then, today—the day of the first night of Hanukkah—is your day: The new miracle of Hanukkah has arrived in the form of the fidget dreidel. It’s a 2017/5778 miracle!
Yes, someone has finally disrupted dreidels. The fidget dreidel is the brainchild of 32-year-old, Jerusalem-based Michael Krimsky, and though it is not the only fidget spinner–dreidel hybrid on the market, it’s the one with the best SEO. I called Krimsky to discuss the genesis of his invention, which he did not make out of clay.
Slate: How did you come up with this idea?
Michael Krimsky: So two things happened back to back. One was I was in a class and I saw a fellow student playing with the regular fidget spinner. I had seen them on the street, and I saw stores selling them. I didn’t know what the appeal was. So I decided to buy one. Then later on, I was riding my bike and I passed a friend and she was kind of yelling at me for not wearing a helmet. She’s like, “If we designed a helmet that looked really cool, would you then wear a helmet?” I was like, “It’s not about that, but what were you thinking?” She just told me this creative design that she had for it, and because of that conversation it sort of got the juices flowing. Then I went back to the fidget spinner. I was like, Jews for the Jewish holidays have this spinner already called the dreidel, and if I made this fidget spinner with four sides on it and put the Hebrew letters on it, then I can make a fidget dreidel!
I made a prototype out of construction paper and chopsticks. Then I eventually contacted a bunch of companies that make these fidget spinners to see if they can custom-make one. Eventually I found one and I paid for a prototype.
Backing up a bit, how did you end up living in Israel?
I’m originally from New York. I grew up in New York, and I’d been living in New York City for the past seven years, and just last year I moved to Israel. I originally went on a two-week trip and wanted to continue studying here. I studied here for about six months, and then things really opened up for me. I have a holistic health practice here. I’m an acupuncturist.
Acupuncture and the fidget spinner are both stress-related. Do you see a connection?
Well, now that you made one, yes. But I haven’t prescribed any of my patients to play with the fidget dreidel.
Has this been your most successful side project?
If we’re defining success by dollar amount, then quite possibly. It kind of matches when I thought of the idea to put advertisements on the shoulder garments that dry cleaners use when they give back your clothes; they put this little shoulder cover on it. I used it as advertising space, like a little business endeavor. I made a decent amount of money doing that.
The fidget dreidels really took off in the past month. It’s definitely the most adventurous of all the projects. I sold pretty much over 11,000 of them only within the past month. I sold 200 today [Monday] actually.
I watched the video on your website. Do you think there’s something about the traditional dreidel that’s not fun enough? Did it need a reboot?
I didn’t intend to make the video to say anything negative about the traditional dreidel. Most kids, they do spin the dreidel a few times and kind of get bored with it. And the fidget spinner they’ll carry for hours and they’ll keep on spinning it. I just wanted to play with that theme, that now we can sort of combine both.
There was actually a cartoon I saw. The cartoon was a dreidel angrily looking at a fidget spinner and saying, “Kids might be playing with you now, but come December, we’ll see who they’re playing with.” Sometimes on Facebook I would post that and say, “Well, let’s make peace.”
Do you think Jews are more likely to be fidgety?
I guess that’s the stereotype, right? Perhaps that’s the case, I don’t know.
The fidget dreidel doesn’t seem to have the actual pointy piece that you spin on, so how does it work? Did you consider other designs?
In the centerpiece, there’s a menorah with an arrow as the center handle of the menorah. So wherever it stops, the arrow is pointing at one of the letters.
The prototype that I made out of construction paper and chopsticks looks vastly different than the one that was actually made. I considered several different options. One was to make them out of stainless steel and laser-engraving the Hebrew letters, but it was a choice between whether making this like a fancy $40 or $50 product for a few people or actually making it available to the majority of people at a reasonable price point. I was working with just a few of the four-sided designs that were given to me from these companies.
During this process, did you have to refamiliarize yourself with how dreidels work? I totally forgot the rules.
I remembered how dreidels work.
The website says the dreidels can be played both in Israel and abroad. Jewish kids are taught that in America, the Hebrew letters on dreidels stand for the phrase “A great miracle happened there,” but in Israel, the letters stand for “A great miracle happened here,” so how did you manage that?
That was really because I needed to place a minimum order to get these out. My minimum order to manufacture these was 2,000 pieces. That’s of each color and it would have been of each type, so we’re talking about 8,000 pieces in total if I made the black one and the white one for both Israel and the States. So I was just trying to figure out which one I should do. And then I was like, “Wait, there’s two sides of this, so why don’t I just make one side for the States and one side for Israel and then I could sell them everywhere?”
There are a few other fidget dreidels now in the States. The two real unique selling points to this particular dreidel is that it’s made from a durable flexible silicone so it won’t break when it drops, and the other is that it’s the only universal dreidel out there so that kids in Israel and kids abroad can play with the same one.
If someone orders a Fidget Dreidel now, will it arrive before the end of Hanukkah?
It would be sent out same day and probably arrive in three days.
Fidget spinners were a 2017 craze, so do you think there’s another season in this? Hanukkah ’18?
I have some ideas. I’d say people should watch out for some new product ideas coming their way from me. It’s probably not going to be a fidget dreidel.
Next year in Jerusalem.