By Mary Klaus
There’s nothing silly about celebrating the salvation of the Jewish people from Haman, an evil prime minister who planned to kill them.
Yet the Jewish Community Center’s annual Community Purim Carnival featured nearly 200 local Jews of all ages dressing up as popular figures like Princess Jasmine of Aladdin, pirates, police officers, and clowns to celebrate the courage of Queen Esther and her Uncle Mordechai in ancient Persia.
Why do Jews wear costumes on Purim? Some say that Esther masqueraded as a non-Jew – and hid her strength and assertive nature as she foiled the plan to kill her people.
Others say that God is hidden behind the events in the Book of Esther, one of only two books in the Hebrew bible which does not mention God by name. They say that although God seemed hidden in this book, he played an important role in the events then and in the future of the Jewish people.
Most of the children at the carnival dressed up simply because “it’s fun,” said one little girl, dressed as a peacock.
“Purim is a multi-generational event where grandparents, their children and grandchildren come together for fun and frivolity,” said Rabbi Eric Cytryn of Beth El Temple. He smiled, adjusted his wizard-style hat with elephant ears, and went back to purchasing hamentaschen.
The Rubin family came to Purim looking like they just got off an airplane from Hawaii. Scott Rubin wore a floral shirt and shorts while his wife, Jackie, wore a grass skirt. Both wore leis and flip flops. Children Noah, Daniel, and Sammy also wore costumes.
The Mary Sachs Auditorium hummed with activity as costumed participants sashayed around.
Felix Thau dressed as a clown “in memory of a wonderful lady and dear friend.” Jordana Hameroff wore a pirate’s outfit and swung a plastic sword, saying “I like pirates because they fight the bad guys.”
Maddie Skulsky, 3 ½, arrived as Anna from “Frozen” while Avery Mayer, 5, was an elegant young Esther in a purple gown. Eli Berman, 5, came as a police officer, toy handcuffs attached to his belt.
“I want to be a police officer when I grow up,” he said. Scott Simon dressed as Emmet of Lego movie fame while daughter Brooke, 7, showed her “wild style” and youngest daughter, Molly, was the “Unikitty.”
Tammy Reid, a Silver Academy teacher, portrayed Miss Frizzle, a teacher from “The Magic School Bus” television series. Reuben Levine, 5 dressed as a dragon “because dragons and dinosaurs are cool.”
Curtis Sweitzer dressed as a king and made balloon toys while his wife, Nancy, dressed as a queen, drew caricatures of people.
Purim carnival visitors participated in arts, crafts, face painting, and games at various booths sponsored by Jewish organizations and synagogues.
They tossed plastic fish into a hole, hit golf balls, threw a ball at tin cans and strung beads into necklaces. They had face painting and even a bounce house to let their energy out. They also ate pizza and the signature Purim food, hamentaschen, triangular cookies representing Haman’s three-cornered hat. The cookies, available in apricot, strawberry, raspberry, lemon, cherry, blueberry, chocolate chip and s’mores, sold briskly.
In a way to give back, a blood drive organized by Chisuk Emuna Congregation was held in conjunction with the carnival. Representatives of such Jewish camps as Pinemere Camp of Stroudsburg, Perlman Camp of Lake Como and Camp Havaya of Wyncote discussed camping options with parents.
Lori Rubin, Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg associate executive director, said the day was a success.
“We wanted to get all facets of the community together for something fun, festive and celebratory,” she said. “We did just that.”