The day of Purim on the Jewish calendar doesn’t specifically call for Mardi Gras beads, green jumpsuits or fake beards, but there’s nothing that says you can’t wear them.
Purim celebrates the traditional story of Queen Esther, who thwarted the evil Haman by informing her husband, King Ahasuerus, that he planned to kill all the Jews — and also, by the way, that she was a Jew herself.
“It’s very kid-oriented,” said Rabbi David Weis, dressed in his bright red Mardi Gras suit at Congregation Beth Israel in Northfield. “The Purim play often spoofs of the story. ... Everyone wears costumes, sometimes as characters in the Purim story. When I was a kid, everyone dressed up as Haman or the king or queen. Nowadays, in Israel, it’s the Israeli version of Halloween. All the kids dress up in costumes, and they dress up in all costumes, everything you can imagine.”
Alex Greenspun, of Northfield, didn’t say a word as the body-suited Green Man, though he did wear clothes and sunglasses to complete the ensemble. His sister, Hope, dressed as Sally from “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” There were also a few Minnie Mouse ears scattered about.
But the real meaning of the day is the retelling of the Book of Esther, carried out by several high schoolers in their annual play, or “spiel.”
Marisa Mast, 18, of Northfield, played the dreaded Haman, beard and all.
“I’m usually not in drag,” joked Mast, with felt whiskers masking her face. “It’s an actor’s dream to play the evil villain. ... And never grow a mustache, because it itches.”
The audience gave a hearty “boo” whenever Haman appeared, helped along by the sign held up every time Mast/Haman appeared that read, simply, “Boo!”.
There was also Jessica Rich, 17, of Linwood, who played Guard No. 1 — “I have a rap with Guard No. 2,” she explained — and Adina Lowenstein, 17, of Northfield, who played Queen Esther.
“We wrote our own songs today, just to talk about Purim for the kids,” said Lowenstein. Songs included “King” Ethan Fischer’s rendition of the Adele-esque “Someone Like My Queen.”
Then it was off to the carnival, where children could win prizes for playing games such as Vashti’s Grab-a-Fish, Hamentaschen Toss — named after cookies shaped like Haman’s triangle hat — and Esther’s Alley.
The story of Purim, Weis said, tells how “we need to be careful, we never know when enemies are going to arise. If you ask me what the real thrust of the story is, it’s that we don’t actually wait around for God to come and save us, we actually have to save ourselves. ... The seeming implication is that the hand of God is there throughout, but not in obvious ways like in earlier books, where God does this and God does that. He’s all behind the scenes.”
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