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Jewish Journal

Spectator - Once Upon a Menorah

by Tom Tugend

December 22, 2005 | 7:00 pm

A three-foot dancing dreidel and a visiting Holocaust survivor recall the ageless tales from a fresh perspective, when PBS station KCET airs "Chanukah Stories" on Dec. 24 and 25.

The heroes of the animated film, "Moishe's Miracle," is 8-year-old Zackary Maccabee, known as Zak Mak to his friends and television viewers, and a 50th generation descendent of Judah Maccabeus.

As Zak impatiently awaits the first night of the Festival of Lights, his trusty dreidel transports him to a snowy Jewish shtetl of the 1800s.

There, Moishe the Milkman ekes out a meager living and, to the frustration of his wife, Baile, gives out free milk to neighbors who have fallen on hard times.

Comes Chanukah time and Moishe sadly realizes that he doesn't have enough money to buy all the ingredients for latkes. But just in time appears a magic pan, which self-produces limitless amounts of the savory dish. The one provision that comes with the gift is that no one but Moishe can ever use the pan.

As the latkes pop off the pan, Moishe invites the whole shtetl for a feast. But while he is away, Baile can't resist trying out the pan and the heaven-sent latkes disappear forever.

Narrated by Bob Saget, "Moishe's Miracle" is followed by "The Tie Man's Miracle," during which Zak Mac, now back in the 1960s, is waiting for his father's return to celebrate the last night of Chanukah.

Suddenly, an elderly man, Mr. Hoffman, appears at the door, selling neckties. He resists the invitations of the mother and children to spend the evening with them, but finally gives in to the entreaties of the father.

Asked by Zak why he doesn't spend Chanukah with his family, Mr. Hoffman haltingly relates the story of his wife and children, who were killed during the Holocaust.

Before taking an abrupt leave, Mr. Hoffman tells Zak that if on the last night of Chanukah all nine candles go out at exactly the same time, his wish will come true.

Deeply affected by the sad visitor, Zak closely watches the menorah on future Chanukahs, hoping that the tie salesman might return one more time. Jami Gertz, star of the CBS comedy, "Still Standing," narrates the story.

"Chanukah Stories" is the latest in the series of children-oriented cultural and religious programs by JTN Productions of the Jewish Television Network, headed by Jay Sanderson.

KCET airs "Chanukah Stories" on Dec. 24 at 10:30 a.m. and Dec. 25 at 8 a.m. Check listings for other PBS stations in Southern California for air dates and times.

 

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