Someone certainly will show up at a synagogue dressed as Donald Trump this Purim, because if any holiday has the ability to commix religion and politics, it is this one.
With its nod to rulers providing rescue, heroes lending a hand or the annihilation of enemies, Purim has the makings of a modern-day saga. Perhaps such is why it is so common for costumes to reflect current trends or stories.
Last year, in deference to the popular live-action adaptation of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” Madonna, a known kabbalist, adopted an attire of appropriate appellation by wearing a yellow dress, a la Belle, and a hideous hairy mask representing the sometimes shameful prince.
In Pittsburgh, several spiritual leaders are uncertain as to this year’s fashionable frocks; nonetheless, regardless of what Purim participants decide, certain guidelines do abide.
“A costume should be fun, creative and playful,” said Rabbi Seth Adelson, Congregation Beth Shalom’s senior rabbi.
Cantor Laura Berman of Temple Sinai agreed; costumes should be “in good taste and reasonably modest.”
Rabbi Barbara Symons of Temple David noted that the Monroeville congregation does not send out any guidelines or recommendations for what to wear.
Rabbi Jeremy Markiz of Congregation Beth Shalom echoed that he has “never made recommendations before on Purim costumes” either.
Where regard for raiment arises is at Pittsburgh’s Jewish day schools.
A letter from Community Day School stated: “Students are encouraged to dress in costume on Purim, observing the following rules: Boys must have a kippah if they have a headpiece or hat that may be removed; no weapons (toy or homemade); costumes may not limit a student’s ability to sit in class and fully participate; [and] normal dress code requirements apply for students who don’t wear costumes.”
At Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh, although multiple days in the Hebrew month of Adar are allotted to dressing up, similar requirements were related in a letter from the school.
Beginning with the stipulation that a “uniform is required in addition” to other clothing, the message noted “anything that a teacher feels is disruptive will have to be removed for class; boys should make sure that they have kippot” even when other hats are worn; and “costumes must adhere to Hillel Academy’s tziniut (modesty) dress code guidelines.” A concluding provision made it clear that “no weapons (real or fake!)” should be brought to school.
For many children, Purim is an exciting opportunity to adopt alternative outfits and paralleling personalities. Adults should follow such lead, said Adelson.
“I would love to see more adults in costume — it’s not just for kids,” said the rabbi. “Judaism is a tradition for adults as much as for kids.
“It seems to me that sometimes we focus on children too much and do not enjoy the fun parts of our tradition as adults, and I would like to see more adults participating in many aspects of Jewish life, including Purim.”
In providing such a path, Shalom Pittsburgh and J’Burgh are hosting a young adult Purim party on Saturday evening, Feb. 24, styled in the theme of “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.”
Those interested in entering a world of pure imagination are invited to “indulge in a night of candy-coated dreams at the Children’s Museum,” noted promotional materials.
Although there is a $40 door fee, the pricier way to enjoy the night may be by dressing the part.
According to icollector.com, when Gene Wilder’s iconic purple jacket, frilled shirt and bow tie went for auction in 2012, the outfit fetched $73,800 — that is apart from the $33,825 it cost to procure Wilder’s brown hat.
But no need to be a million-dollar man (unless, of course, you are going for former pro wrestler Ted “Million Dollar Man” DiBiase’s classic black-and-gold sportcoat look) to enjoy the holiday. The irony of dressing up is that what matters most is what is beneath, said Rabbi Stacy Petersohn of Congregation Emanu-El Israel.
Said the spiritual guide: “What makes a good Purim costume is a person’s attitude while in costume, if they can make their character come to life.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.