Menu JTA Search

Sad but true: Jan Berenstain, bears, not Jewish

Sorry folks: Jan Berenstain, widow of Stan Berenstain (MOT), who died in 2005, died Feb. 24 at 88. While her husband was Jewish, Berenstain was an Episcopalian, and a few of her final Berenstain bears books were overtly Christian. "The Living Lights" was a late series of Bear-books featuring such titles as, "The Berenstain Bears Say Their Prayers,” “The Berenstain Bears Go to Sunday School,” and “The Berenstain Bears: God Loves You.”

[[READMORE]]

“This news makes me sad for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that now Jewish kids can’t include the Berenstain’s in their secret club,” book blogger Adam Wilson wrote in 2010.

The couple’s “Bear Country” had a morality “based largely on the Golden Rule rather than on religion,” the Washington Post wrote in its obituary of Jan Berenstain.

A 2002 article about the Berenstains in the Forward after they published a joint autobioraphy had the couple saying they would never produce a Hanukkah book:

The Berenstains have been asked by countless fans if they can expect a Berenstains Hannukah book. Not likely, they said. "There’s no way to do it without bringing religion into it," said Stan. Christmas, the Berenstains reason, is popular and widespread enough so that it doesn’t get into the murky waters of competing religions.

According to the Forward, “the closest the Berenstains ever got to an explicitly religious book” (note – this was before the Christian series published after Stan’s death) was in "The Berenstain Bears and the Big Question." The cubs ask Mama and Papa Bear about God – his motives and his intentions. That book ends on an ambiguous note: "I guess God made mostly questions," Papa says.

The Eulogizer highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org.

NEXT STORY