March 8, 2001
The Mouse Hawks Mezuzot
Looking for the perfect gift for that upcoming wedding or bat mitzvah? If you're in the Anaheim area, you may want to check out Downtown Disney, the new shopping/dining/entertainment complex just outside Disneyland and the new California Adventure park. Make your way to the New Agey objets d'art store near the entrance (just follow the John Tesh music), turn to the right when you enter, and you'll feel as if you were transported by Disney magic to an upscale temple gift shop. A glass case of doorpost-ready mezuzot is prominently displayed; a variety of menorahs and tzedekah boxes fill several shelves.
When I came upon the Judaica display, my first inclination was to look for Disney's inevitable stamp.
Maybe Snow White and the seven dwarfs on the branches of a menorah, or Scrooge McDuck's face on a tzedekah box. But no, these were straightforward, traditional-with-a-modern-twist religious/cultural items. More Westside than Fairfax, this was colorful, artisan-crafted, high-end merchandise with plenty of shelf appeal.
After looking things over, I hung back to watch the multinational tourists inspect the goods. Most seemed to register admiration and curiosity. One woman speculated that a tzedekah box was "Some sort of Jewish piggy bank." Not exactly flattering, but a good guess nonetheless. The Asian American sales clerk did a reasonably good job of fielding the shoppers' questions.
I must admit it was a little odd to see traditional Jewish items marketed alongside the aromatherapy candles and feng shui manuals. I suppose Disney figures some tourists are interested in a spirituality other than the type offered at the Haunted Mansion. I'm sure some vacationing shoppers will snatch up these items, if not for the spirituality factor, for the craftsmanship, or maybe just because the colors match their living room decor.
For me, getting a taste of different cultures has always been a big part of the Disneyland experience. I visited there often as a kid, and it was the first place I saw folks in traditional African dress, families speaking European languages, Orthodox men and boys in yarmulkes, Muslim women with faces covered. So maybe it's appropriate that tourists bring a little bit of Judaica home to Kentucky or Korea, even if it does end up on a mantle between the mouse ears and the Sleeping Beauty's Castle glitter globe.
It's a small world, after all. The Mouse Hawks Mezuzot