Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Purim in Jerusalem!

Purim has always been my favorite Jewish holiday. Purim is the holiday that celebrates the Jewish victory over Haman in Persia, as recorded in the Book of Esther. For those of you who don't know, Purim is typically celebrated by reading the entire Book of Esther (in a special chant, which I now know!) in a fun, celebratory service with lots of noise, songs, and skits, followed by the eating of hamantashen (triangle-shaped cookies with fruit or chocolate filling) and, usually, some sort of drunken debauchery. It's not a very spiritual holiday, as the Megillah does not mention Gd's name even once, and it really doesn't force you to look deep into your soul for any reason; it's all about fun, drinking, and celebrating, especially here in Jerusalem. Never in my life have I seen Purim like I did in the J'lem--everyone gets into the spirit, with costumes and costume stores EVERYWHERE, decorations in shops and restaurants, hamantashen in every bakery and grocery store window, and sales on liquor in every makolet and liquor store in town. For the entire weekend, there we saw dozens of little kids in typical Halloween costumes; brides, Superman/Batman, animals, almost anything you can imagine.

This past Thursday night, HUC had it's annual Purim Schpiel. Acting in the spirit of the kids throughout Jerusalem, everyone at HUC--students AND faculty--dressed for the occasion. After much deliberation in 2 crowded costume shops downtown, I finally decided that I would be a clown. I had an amazing blue wig, a face full of clown make-up that Steph artfully applied for me, a bright yellow fake tie, and a red nose that squeaked whenever you squeezed it (which I used during the Megillah reading, whenever Haman's name was mentioned.) Steph dressed up as Chen, our Hebrew teacher, who dresses like a punk even though she's in her 30's and the mother of 2 children. We had all kinds of costumes at the Megillah reading; a bunch of HUC faculty members, 2 clowns, a few Queen Esthers and Vashtis, some Ultra-Orthodox Jews, etc. It was pretty great to see the lengths some of our classmates went to to find creative and unique costumes.
Chen and I, right before we left for the Purim Schpiel.

The HUC community and our guests, enjoying a funny moments during the Schpiel.

The Schpiel itself was actually very fun. I expected it to be long and kind of boring, because we read much more of the Megillah than I am normally used to, so I was very happy that it was fun and very festive. It started off with a fun Motown-style Ma'ariv (evening) service, with prayers based on tunes of the Temptations, Tina Turner, and other Motown faves, followed by the reading of the Megillah. All of the Cantorial students were involved with the reading, as well as some rabbinical students, Eli and Tamar, and we all did a really great job (if I do say so myself.) The class was very rowdy with their cheers and boos (it's customary to cheer for the heroes of the story, and to boo for Haman, the villain) and cheered for each of us when we were done with our readings.

The organizers of the Purim Schpiel: Paul (AKA Al Sharpton), Elana, Aimee, Greg, and PJ (AKA Diana Ross)

Reading the Megillah, with PJ, Eli, and Tamar by my side. It was actually very, very fun, even though I was incredibly nervous (thank goodness you can't see my hands shaking in the picture, because they sure were!)

After the Schpiel, we had a bagel dinner and our 2nd beit cafe of the year. We had a lot of hysterical acts, many making fun of the faculty, our classmates, the HUC administration at large, and other things. It was a lot of fun and a great way to relieve some of the stresses of the week--I can't tell you how nice it was to relax, drink some wine, laugh, and enjoy my classmates after one of the longest weeks of school so far!

5 very relieved cantorial students enjoying the Beit Cafe after the Megillah Reading. According to Michelle, this we are "Cute 5000!" From left to right: Julia, me, Vicky, Elana, and Michelle.

I left HUC a bit early to meet my friend Greg at a nearby bar. Greg and I met in January 2004 on our Birthright Israel trip and it was so great to reunite in Jerusalem, not even a mile from the hotel where we stayed. In this program, especially this year, it is so rare to see or hang out with anyone NOT in the HUC community, so it was awesome to get out of the bubble and enjoy some time without the company of HUC'ers.

Greg and I at Capricorn, the karaoke bar where we hung out. Yep--I wore my costume to the bar, cause that's people do in this crazy city do.

Since we had a long weekend, I decided to take a day off on Saturday and go to Tel Aviv for the day (normally my Saturday is full of homework.) Instead of worrying about Biblical Grammar or the service I had to sing on Monday, I spent 7 hours eating lunch at Mike's Place and laying on the beach working on my new summertime tan with some good friends. I took a morning sheirut with Julia and Michelle, and we met up with Ariel and our Tel Aviv friends. It was the PERFECT day--so relaxing after a crazy week, and very well-deserved.

So that was my Purim--fun, relaxing, and memorable. I am looking forward to many more fun Purim celebrations during the next 4 years, and many more to follow when I'm a real cantor! Hope your Purim/Easter celebration was as fun as mine!

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