He designs toys, has twinkly eyes and a hearty laugh, is downright jolly - and wears a yarmulke.
He's Sol Scharfstein, co-owner of Ktav Publishing and Holiday Products Inc., considered one of the largest makers of Hanukkah gifts in the world.A recent visitor to Ktav's cavernous warehouse in this waterfront city's industrial section found Scharfstein busy filling last-minute Hanukkah orders.
Among Ktav's products is one of the most widely recognized symbols of Hanukkah - the dreidel, a four-sided top with a Hebrew letter on each side. Ktav makes 10 kinds of dreidels, including inflatable.
Players put candy or money into a kitty and take turns spinning the dreidel. The four letters tell players: you win nothing, you take all, you win half of everything, or you lose - unless you add to the kitty.
Ktav also publishes books on Jewish faith and culture. Many of them derive from Scharfstein's determination to keep the Jewish faith alive in a world where many Jews don't follow their traditions.
"The greatest problem Jews have today is intermarriage," said Scharfstein, who is over 70. "In the old days, when Jews tended to live together in a community, there was very little intermarriage.
Scharfstein says reaching children is a good way to instill Jewish traditions, so the books he writes and textbooks and history books Ktav publishes are geared toward students, from children to collegiates.
Scharfstein's father started the business in the early 1920s making lead dreidels behind his religious bookstore on Manhattan's Lower East Side. Scharfstein and his brother took over the business and moved its headquarters to Hoboken in 1984.