It was fishnets and hamentashen as the Temple Israel Players presented their annual Purim spiel to an (almost) SRO crowd last month
Temple Israel’s congregation knows to expect the unexpected on Purim: for the past several years, the Players have enriched each Megilla reading with an original (sort of) play, based on a popular Broadway show. The production is led by the indefatigable Jody Mazur, who with a small team of collaborators writes the narration, dialogue and lyrics, and also stages, choreographs, produces and directs the spiel, and acts, and sings a little.
Previous Mazur Purim Productions have included Oys and Veys (loosely based on Guys and Dolls—or East Side Tsuris (inspired by West Side Story)—and Bye Bye Boychik (that one’s easy.) This year, Mazur enlisted the songwriting skills of Cheryl Dronzek, and the two set out to create a little something different. They knew it would be a stretch for the congregation, but they also knew the music was wonderfully adaptable to the story of Esther. And they knew the Temple Israel Players had the talent, the determination and the chutzpah to pull it off. And so The Rockin’ Hora Purim Spiel, a takeoff on The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the cult classic that had its world premiere in London in 1975 was created.
The congregation was warned. And as they entered the foyer outside the sanctuary, a crudely lettered sign said Enter At Your Own Risk, evoking the sign outside the house of Dr. Frank N. Furter in the original show. Once inside, adorning the chairs on the bimah were bright red lips that lit up, flashing an implied invitation to sit down and prepare to be amazed.
They sat, and they were amazed. And while none of the Players wore Dr. Frank N. Furter’s signature merry widow, each cast member wore fishnet stockings, and there was one cantor (who shall go unnamed) whose bikini bathing suit T-shirt drew cat calls and wolf whistles from those who weren’t laughing too hard to pucker.
Fright wigs and funky hats topped every head, and there was enough glitter and black eyeliner on the cast members to circle the earth (or at least the sanctuary.) Each song drew cheers from the congregation, but the last song—Let’s Do the Hora Again (a parody of Let’s Do the Time Warp Again)—brought them to their feet, as the Temple Israel Players led them in a rousing rendition of Hava Nagilah.
Despite the incredibly raucous service—Haman was duly booed and groggered at every mention and the wine flowed freely.
The Megilla reading itself was meaningful and inspiring. Several new readers took a first turn at the special trope, and “mazel tovs” and “yasher koachs” were loud and heartfelt.
Afterwards, the cast members greeted their grateful audience in the atrium, and they all ate hamentashen and wondered how the Temple Israel Players could ever top this year’s spiel. But not to worry—Mazur and her crew are already plotting Purim 5774.
by Bobbie Fisher
Beth El celebrates the holiday
The Yellow “Brick” Road welcomed Congregation Beth El costumed congregants to the family reading of Megillat Esther on Saturday evening, Feb. 23.
Following the Somewhere over the Rainbow inspired nusach for Havdalah, both the Scarecrow (AKA Cantor Gordon Piltch) and Cowardly Lion (AKA Rabbi Jeff Arnowitz), ably assisted by costumed teens and adults including Gary Baum, Cantor Elihu Flax, Dara Pomerantz, Kevin Tabakin, Rachel Goretzky, Andie Eichelbaum and Brad Lazernick, chanted the tale describing the events that took place long ago in Persia. Encouraged by the energetic cheerleading of Dorothy (Sharon Wasserberg), the crowd of costumed children, teens, and adults booed the evil Haman and celebrated the victory of the Jews.
What made Purim at Beth El even more special this year was the joyous return of the Purim Shpiel! Linda Drucker and Linda Belkov spearheaded the drive to bring back this tradition and co-authored the play, and Mickey Held provided the directorial assistance. The key roles of King Ahashuarus (David Cardon), Queen Esther (Deb Segaloff), Mordechai (Paul Peck), and Haman (Adam Foleck) were joined by Ladies-in-Waiting (Sue Ellen Kaplan and Tami Arnowitz) and Servants (Brad Lazernick and Brad Bangel). A cute commercial was sung by Clara Zimm, and the entire shpiel was narrated by a quickly-changed-from-Cowardly-Lion-into-a-debonair- tuxedoed Rabbi Arnowitz and all were accompanied on the piano by Ina Mirman Leiderman. The packed audience in Myers Hall had adults sitting at tables munching goodies and sipping adult beverages, while the children made their way to Barr Hall for a magic show, hamantaschen, and other kid-appropriate treats. The celebration did not end there, however, as adults packed into Barr Chapel for a post-shpiel full reading of the Megillah. It was only at that point that the Beth El Collaborative went off to their celebratory Purim Party, hosted by Jason Rosenberg and Leah Katz.
On Sunday morning, the Religious School continued the celebration of Purim with a Red Carpet event featuring a onceagain- debonair-tuxedoed Rabbi Arnowitz greeting students in front of a giant depiction of the Cowardly Lion, the Scare Crow and the Tin Man. Elegantly attired, the Director of Congregational Learning, Sharon Wasserberg, distributed props to students and then went on to conduct a riotous reading of Megillat Esther with the entire student body.
Virginia Wesleyan College hosts traditional Purim “Debate”
The 5th Annual Latke- Hamantashen Invitational Debate, a heated intellectual battle to determine which was superior: the latke or the hamantashen, was hosted by Virginia Wesleyan College on Thursday, Feb. 21.
Organized by Professor Eric Mazur, the Gloria & David Furman Professor of Judaic Studies at VWC, the debate pitted “Team Latke” (Harry Graber, Rabbi Gershon Litt, and Burle Stromberg) against “Team Hamantashen” (Rabbi Jeffrey Arnowitz, Betty Ann Levin, and Mazur) in a humorous, yet futile struggle to determine gastronomic dominance.
An audience of more than 40, comprised of members of the local Jewish community, as well as VWC students, faculty, and administrators, cheered and jeered the combatants in true Purimshpiel fashion, and enjoyed kosher foods donated by Belkov Brothers, the Carolina Cupcakery, and Yorgo’s Bageldashery.
The event was held to raise hunger awareness and donations of food and funds for Jewish Family Service and the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia. Contributions in honor of this momentous event are still welcomed. For information or to volunteer to participate next year, contact Mazur at email@example.com.
Beth El brings Purim to Beth Sholom
On Purim afternoon, members of Congregation Beth El celebrated and enjoyed the holiday with some residents at Beth Sholom Village.
The event was organized by the “Growing Together” group—a series for young families. Students in Beth El’s Confirmation class joined the families and helped facilitate the event.
Children, parents, confirmation students and residents got creative decorating masks with colors and feathers. Everyone also joined in with some Purim songs.
Carin Simon attended with her two boys and says, “We had a wonderful time with the Beth Sholom residents. It was great to be able to share some of our Purim activities with them.”