CESJDS Students Create Theater Magic Together

Written by Laurie Ehrlich on . Posted in Features

The third annual Fanaroff Hanukkah Musical, “Macca Wish Upon a Star,” drew more than a thousand people over two performances.

During Rabbi Matthew Bellas’s first year at Vancouver Talmud Torah, he was asked to take their traditional Chanukah concert up a few notches and cater to the increasingly diverse community school’s audience. Rabbi Bellas, working in conjunction with the school’s drama and music specialist, created the wildly successful annual show “Macca Bia.”

When Rabbi Bellas came to the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (CESJDS) a number of years later, he brought the tradition with him; and during the school’s Building Our Future Endowment Campaign, the Fanaroff family chose to name the event.

“The purpose of the Fanaroff Hanukkah Musical is to celebrate the holiday as a community in a way that is fun and authentic, and a cross-tradition of Jewish history to the world that we live in,” said Rabbi Bellas.

This year’s show title, “Macca Wish Upon a Star,” was dreamt up by Rabbi Bellas’s 10th-grade daughter, Maya, on a walk to shul. The show included songs that were inspired by “The Lion King,” “Tarzan,” “Aladdin,” “The Little Mermaid,” and others. Twelve hundred parents, grandparents, alumni, parents of alumni, and other members of the Greater Washington community attended two shows, one in the morning and one in the evening.

Every Lower School student was involved in the show, from gurim (junior kindergarten) through fifth grade. Students unable to perform for social-emotional, educational, or other reasons were still a part of the show as members of the stage or tech crews. “The musical allows students, whether the arts are their thing or not, to expand out of their comfort zones, be challenged, and appreciate everyone’s strengths,” Rabbi Bellas said.

CESJDS’s previous musicals included “Hanukkah Goes Broadway” (2015) and a refreshed version of “Macca Bia” (2016). There is a Hebrew element to each show, and translations of the Hebrew lines are provided to the audience.

“The Fanaroff Family Hanukkah Musical is a cool interface between what we receive and maintain as tradition, but also breathes ruach (spirit) into it that is memorable and impactful,” said Rabbi Bellas.

By Laurie Ehrlich

 Laurie Ehrlich is the communications director at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (CESJDS).