Lauren B. Lev
Author, Teacher and Member, Hadassah Nassau

Purim for beginners

Purim artwork courtesy of Hadassah.
Purim artwork courtesy of Hadassah.
The Lev Family Celebrates Purim Long Ago. Photo courtesy of the author.

When the Hadassah Al Galgalim Training Wheels Program, a development program for families with young children, became our community’s “go-to” for holiday celebrations, Purim was especially sweet. It was a celebration complete with pre-school crafts such as elbow macaroni sealed in a toilet paper tube as a grogger or costumes cut from brown paper grocery bags or masks that didn’t have anything to do with COVID.

But the more remarkable part about Purim was the extended celebration. The home delivery of Shalach Manot bags in which all family members had to be present before opening and divvying up the treats. The reading of the Megillah/Book of Esther in temple. And my favorite, as a novice, the weeks prior were filled with determination to make costumes that clothed our family of four.

The key to costume success was three-fold: make them simple, make them easy to move in, and be sure that they were immediately recognizable. Looking back on each year, I usually achieved at least two out of three.

One of the initial years with my young family was dedicated to all things Flintstones. Glued orange felt allowed Fred (my husband) and Pebbles (my daughter) to wear tube-like garments speckled with black felt to represent animal skins while Wilma (me) had a string of Styrofoam balls for her signature necklace and a white dress made from a few yards of fleece. Dino (my son) wore a hooded purple sweatshirt complete with recognizable spots and felt collar.

Ushering the sanctuary door, a fellow congregant asked Fred why he didn’t stop buying that big rib meal if he knew it would keep flipping his car on its side. Fred’s in-character response? “I was hungry.”

Over the years we have relied on Purim to bring out the best in creative, yet minimalist costume design. For example, the Cat in the Hat graced Purim and had a second life on Dr. Seuss’ birthday (March 2) for my daughter, the pre-school teacher.

The Energizer Bunny™ started with a pair of ears from the Susan B. Komen® Race for the Cure (cue the pink) and ended up with sweats and a handmade drum to make a deeper, louder sound obliterating Haman’s name.

But perhaps, in the “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” category there were two Purims in which the focus was on our beloved Cantor, Steven Sher Z”L at Temple B’nai Torah in Wantagh, New York.

Cantor Sher was a formidable figure. In the months after he dressed as our female rabbi for Purim, I suggested he “up his game” with one of my homemade costumes. Open to any suggestion, we bought green sweats while I decorated the hood with Styrofoam eyeballs and a felt collar to represent Kermit the Frog.  He even played the guitar while telling a (frog) joke during a parody rendition of “The Rainbow Connection” in which my new lyrics were about “The Purim Connection.”

And finally, there was the year our then teenage son dressed up as Cantor Sher complete with Hawaiian shirt (Cantor’s favorite off-duty uniform), guitar and a bald cap. As my son greeted congregants at the sanctuary door, strumming aimlessly, Cantor came down the stairs from his office and (I am told) stopped cold when seeing his “reflection” in the hall. Very little could make our cantor speechless. I only regret I never got to see it.

In short, I was a newbie, then a seasoned holiday “professional,” but Purim never gets old for the child in me.

About the Author
Lauren B. Lev is a Life Member of Hadassah Nassau (Long Island, NY). She is a New York-based writer and direct marketing/advertising executive who teaches marketing communications at the State University of New York/Fashion Institute of Technology. Lauren writes personal essays and features that have appeared in New York Newsday, and the East Meadow Herald under the weekly column "eLEVate the Conversation" from 2012 through 2022. She has written for the book, “Real Stories of Hadassah Life Changing Moments” and is the honored recipient of the Hadassah Nassau Region Woman of the Year Award for her work in developing the Special Needs version of the Hadassah Al Galgalim/Training Wheels program. This hands-on, inclusive program helps to ensure that young children nationwide can learn about the richness of their Jewish heritage.
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