Mickey Mouse alights on menorah Hanukkah: Disney's cartoon character takes on an additional ethnicity this year, with his famous little body on the cover of a Jewish catalog.


So Mickey Mouse is Jewish?

Albert Einstein we know was Jewish. Isaac Stern and Itzhak Perlman, of course, are Jewish. Barbra Streisand, a Yentl if not a yenta. Bob Dylan, now and again Jewish. Manischewitz wine and Hebrew National salami, absolutely kosher.

Mickey Mouse? Who knew?

But with Hanukkah starting tomorrow night, there he is on the cover of a catalog called "The Source for Everything Jewish," decorating a menorah, spinning a dreidel with Minnie. That's a traditional Hanukkah game: You spin the dreidel -- a four-sided top -- and you win or lose Hanukkah gelt (money) according to whichever Hebrew letter is up.

The Source for Everything Jewish also offers a menorah on which Mickey plays piano for a "Hanukkah Band." Donald Duck plays drums, Goofie bows the bass. Minnie perches on the Mick's piano, rattling a tambourine. Pluto spins a dreidel.

Both of these artifacts are hand-painted poly resin sculptures on carved bases. The candle vessels are golden metal. Mickey and Minnie spinning the dreidel costs $75; Mickey and the band $85.

So was Mickey a bar mitzvah?Did he have a brit? How do you circumcise a mouse? Is he a convert, maybe, like me?

For the record, John Singh, a spokesman for Disney Consumer Products in Burbank, Calif., says the company -- and Mickey's fans -- consider the entertainer a "pan-cultural" mouse.

"Mickey is universal," says Singh. "He's for everyone. He's a global figure.

"To have a Mickey Mouse that is specifically geared to any particular culture is something that we will do, if the fans and the people who love him tell us they'd like to see him in this way."

He says adopting different ethnicities is nothing new for Mickey, pointing out that at Disney's Epcot Center in Florida, visitors see Mickey in a variety of roles, cultural and otherwise -- Mexican and Chinese, astronaut and cowboy.

But asked whether this most recent catalog appearance might somehow indicate that Mickey is indeed revealing a Jewish heritage, Singh would only say: "No comment."

Mickey's religious orientation does seem a bit shaky, as a matter of fact. Perhaps because of his creator, Uncle Walt Disney. Disney's biographers generally describe him as a troubled man who didn't much like unions, Marxists, Jews, African-Americans or children.

And for a mouse now available from a Jewish source, Mickey has certainly celebrated Christmas wholeheartedly over the years.

Collectibles catalogs show that as long ago as 1932, Mickey dressed up as Santa Claus. With Minnie at his side and Pluto decked with fake reindeer antlers, he delivered toys to poor kids and greetings from Walt Disney to readers of Delineator magazine.

In 1936 Mickey and the gang appeared on plastic bell-like Noma Christmas Tree Lights. On the box, Mickey and Minnie decorate their own tree. Mickey popped up as Santa Claus on the cover of his own magazine in December 1937.

He played Bob Cratchit in Disney's 1983 version of Dickens classic "Christmas Carol." You can still get the video at the Disney Store in the Gallery at Harborplace.

You can also buy Mickey's ceramic country store, which Mickey and Donald and Goofy are decorating with bows, wreathes and a tree -- no doubt for commercial, not religious reasons. Mickey graces Disney's 1996 collectible Christmas ball with Donald and Minnie and the mouse nephews.

Mickey puts on his Santa Claus suit and Goofy poses as a red-nosed reindeer to hawk their traditional Christmas singalong tape, which includes such Hanukkah favorites as "Jolly Old St. Nicholas," "Silent Night" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

It's not clear what Mickey might do for Buddha's birthday or whether he can sing along with the Hari Krishna. He has played the devilish sorcerer's apprentice in "Fantasia."

But that wasn't at Christmas or Hanukkah.

Pub Date: 12/04/96

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