Students postmark Hanukkah

There were marching Maccabees and dancing latkes at the Columbia Jewish Day School's annual Hanukkah show Thursday, and a special commemorative postmark from the U.S. Postal Service to mark the occasion for the excited children.

As teachers arranged last-minute costumes and parents turned on video cameras, Jewish Day School director Rabbi Meir Muller and Harry Spratlin unveiled a portrait of this year's Hanukkah stamp and the Dec. 17 commemorative postmark.

Spratlin designed the postmark for the business envelope, featuring the words "Jewish Day School Station" and "Hanukkah" along with the Dec. 17 date, Columbia SC and the day school's ZIP code.

The commemorative postmark will be available for the next 30 days.

The Hanukkah stamps "are getting prettier and prettier," said Spratlin, a communications specialist for the postal service. This year's stamp, the third U.S. issuance to mark the holiday, features a gold menorah with a blue background.

Once the stamp presentation was complete, it was time to hear the children tell the story of Hanukkah and the chronicle of Jewish survival over tyranny.

Two-year-olds started off as "marching Maccabees," representing soldiers of the second century who resisted Syrian king Anitochus' requirement that they worship pagans.

There were sword fights and poems about the miracle that took place on Hanukkah, when the holy oil that was used to re-light the lamp in the Jewish temple lasted for eight days.

"I think how sweet and fluffy the latkes will be," said Hayes Mensing as he recited his love of the seasonal food.

First-graders told the Hanukkah story in Hebrew, and fourth-graders explained the properties of olive oil and how oil is connected to the Jewish people.

Nicholas and Agnes Vazsonyi watched their 4-year-old son, Benjamin, act out the Hanukkah story and their 8-year-old daughter, Leah, describe the holiday in lyrical verse.

"It's certainly the most innovative program so far," said Nicholas Vazsonyi, a veteran of five annual performances.

Agnes Vazsonyi said the immersion in Hebrew has made her daughter fluent in the language.

"Any language that is seriously taught is fabulous," she said.

There were some perennial favorites, including the singing of the dreidel song. This year, 4-year-old Marlie Berger stepped to the microphone for an impromptu solo instead of a duet and was so entranced by the crowd, she kept on singing until everybody joined in.

Her mother, Julie Berger, knew she was going to sing, but didn't realize how prominent a role Marlie would have.

While she fretted that Marlie's hair wasn't perfectly combed, Marlie's grandmother, Barbara Blau, beamed.

"I think she stole the show," she confided.