A kosher mouse? How can that be? Well, with Ruth Finkelstein’s Mendel the Mouse, you’ll never wonder again! This adorable little guy taught several generations of children about Torah, mitzvos, and good middos, all in the pages of the beloved Olomeinu magazine.

It’s not often I get to interview a nonagenarian, as Mrs. Ruth Finkelstein proudly refers to herself. Today age 90, Mrs. Finkelstein began writing about Mendel the Mouse in the 1970s and kept it up for over 22 years. Now that’s called dedication!

How, you may wonder, was Mendel the Mouse born? “Well,” Mrs. Finkelstein says, “we moved into a new apartment and it was overrun by mice. I thought they were cute. I saw how lively and curious they were, just like children. There were many books out there in the general market about mice, so I decided a mouse would be just right for the main character of a frum story, too.”

Mrs. Finkelstein wrote up her idea and submitted it to Olomeinu. “It took them two years to decide to publish it, but once it started, it really took off,” she reminisces.

Olomeinu came out eight months of the year (the months of the school year), and Mendel the Mouse quickly became a regular feature of the magazine (see next page). Each year the editor told Mrs. Finkelstein the themes for that year’s issues, and she would write a story that matched the theme. Don’t think it was an easy job, though! “It took me about 20 hours to write each story,” she says. “A lot had to be said in just 59 to 63 lines, and the pay was minimal. I certainly didn’t do it for the money.”

But the children loved it. The perky little mouse who was “second to none” was such a mainstay of the magazine that when Mrs. Finkelstein took a break and wrote about Dina the Duckling instead, the readers begged for Mendel to come back. So after two years, the little mouse was there again.

It’s not easy to come up with fresh ideas month after month, year after year. “I did a lot of research,” Mrs. Finkelstein shares. “I would look up the various angles about the chagim in different seforim, like the Shulchan Aruch or The Book of Our Heritage. Each year I had to write a new story about the chag that I’d already written about the year before and the year before that! But I got all my ideas from Hashem, it was always siyata d’Shmaya. And naturally my children and grandchildren gave me inspiration.”

About 15 years ago, Mendel the Mouse first appeared in book form, and four Mendel the Mouse books were published in total. Mrs. Finkelstein also authored the popular children’s book Do You Know What I’m Going to Be? about a little boy who dreams of becoming a yeshivah bochur, and a number of other stories about ahavas Yisrael and good middos. In fact, she’s still writing today! (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 706)