Celebrating Purim traditions, with accent on fun
Updated 5:15 pm, Monday, March 21, 2016
WESTPORT — It may not be the most significant holiday in the Jewish calendar, but it’s probably the most fun.
Westport’s Congregation for Humanistic Judaism hosted a Purim carnival Sunday at Bedford Middle School. Along with games, face painting, crafts and food, with a comedic staging of the traditional story of Queen Esther staged by youngsters.
“It’s just so much fun for the kids,” said Marnie Carron of Norwalk. “They really love doing the play. They love taking part and learning the history.”
“It’s fun,” said Nathan Ayotte, 12, of Trumbull, “and the good part is that we have to be happy, just be our crazy, happy selves.”
The giddy spirit of the holiday was captured in the play itself, which had the audience laughing when Nathan emerged as the debauched king of Persia. “Pour the wine,” he said, waving a bottle. “Whiskey, whiskey makes me feel so frisky.”
And turning to his queen, he said, “Hey, baby, how about a little dance?”
“It’s an especially fun holiday,” said teacher Emily Markley, explaining that the play, which is called a “schpiel,” also teaches some positive lessons, including bravery, standing up for yourself and women’s rights.
“It’s our hope that they kind of have those as takeaways,” she said.
“The summary of the play is that there’s kind of an aloof king and he demands that his queen come to his beck and call, and she refuses,” Markley explained. The king ends up marrying Esther, who he adores, but doesn’t know is Jewish. Later, when he is advised by the evil Haman to eradicate the Jews, Esther risks her life by revealing her true identity, thus turning the king’s heart and saving her people.
“The Jewish people survived again after another attempt to be exterminated,” said Rayham Pasternak, a music teacher with the group. “It’s like a fairy tale.”
“It doesn’t matter what plots that anybody is making,” she said, “God will cancel your bad ideas.”
For Susan Ahyed, visiting her niece from Israel, it was wonderful to see the celebration of Jewish traditions. “I thought the play was fabulous,” she said. “I think it’s terrific that they’re continuing the tradition.”
She said, however, that observance of Purim in Israel involved a greater celebration, especially by adults. “People walk in the streets for three days in costumes,” she said.
“It’s a big, big holiday,” said her daughter, Rakefat Malleron of Tel Aviv.
“As my mom said, it’s important to keep the tradition and have the kids understand what it’s about,” she said. “It’s hard to be a Jew sometimes if you want to keep the traditions. You have to find a group that does it with you.”
That’s why several of the in attendance said the Congregation for Humanistic Judaism is special, as the focus is on maintaining the traditions from a cultural standpoint, versus focusing strictly on religious elements.
“It’s the humanistic Jews, so they support mainly the celebrations and the culture,” said Kurt Zeppetello of Monroe. “They’re really big into education. They don’t specify the religious aspects as much, which is nice.”
“And it’s also accepting of everybody,” he said, noting that he is Catholic.