Not Just for Kids


Purim may conjure up visions of kiddie games, sugar-addled
toddlers and homemade noisemakers, but it lends itself just as well to adult
forms of celebration. The Talmud instructs us to drink and make our hearts
merry with wine on Purim until we cannot tell the difference between “cursed be
Haman” and “blessed be Mordechai.”

For American Jews who were raised on G-rated carnivals held
in synagogues and schools, the idea that Purim could look more like a Jewish
variation on Mardi Gras can come as a minor revelation. Just think: Dance
parties instead of spin art; the pop of a wine cork instead of the slosh of a
doomed goldfish in a Zip-Locked baggie; and costumes that might even make
Vashti blush.

After all, the Shushan story is one of our spicier
narratives. Underneath the sanitized children’s version, there is a rich tale
of palace intrigue, sexual power struggles, violence and desire. The king
demands that Vashti parade in front of his wine-soaked friends, wearing nothing
but her crown. After Vashti’s rebellion and violent demise, Esther, a lovely
virgin, is taken to the palace, rubbed with oil and beautified for display, so
that she may be chosen as queen instead of just palace concubine. Haman plots,
Mordechai maneuvers and, ultimately, the Jews of Shushan escape death. Who
needs goldfish?

For the over-21 set, there are now more adult opportunities
to celebrate Purim than there used to be. While family-oriented events still
dominate, there has been a conscious effort in recent years to organize Purim
celebrations that will appeal to Jews who are young, single and unaffiliated.

A Green Martini Purim

ATID’s first ever Purim Bash is a case in point.

“We want to attract people who otherwise would never come to
shul on Purim,” said recording artist and Friday Night Live music director
Craig Taubman. Through his independent label, Craig ‘n Co., Taubman is
co-producing the Purim party at Bergamot Station. Taubman will be there in
tandem with Sinai Temple’s Rabbi David Wolpe kicking-off the first party
sponsored by ATID (Hebrew for “future”), a new group under Sinai’s auspices
that has been set up to fund programming for young Jewish professionals.
Inspired by their success with Friday Night Live, Taubman and Wolpe, believe
the Jewish establishment must think creatively in order to spark any interest
among disaffected, unaffiliated Jewish singles.

“We’re looking to attract people who don’t even usually
consider attending anything remotely Jewish,” Taubman said.

A DJ, guitar player and percussionist billed collectively as
Tribe 1, will provide live music. Wolpe will conduct a decidedly nontraditional
Megillah reading jazzed up by the Purim Posse, a troupe of professional actors
who, Taubman said, will dramatize a rather “spicy” version of the holiday tale.
Strolling musicians and jugglers will entertain partygoers while interactive
performers will mingle with the crowd. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Purim
celebration without costumes. Grand prize in the ATID costume contest will be
two tickets to New York City on American Airlines, with other prizes for
runners-up.

“Estherminator”

In an irreverent press release that promises to “put the
‘fun’ back into fundamentalism,” a group of New York- and San Francisco-based
actors, musicians and educators will bring “Estherminator,” their edgy version
of a Purimspiel, to Los Angeles’ Echo Club on March 16.

Billed as a “psycho-pious Purim rock opera,” Estherminator
is an hour-plus piece of Megillah-inspired performance art put together by Amy
Tobin of The Hub in San Francisco, and the New York-based Storahtelling
Project, a nonprofit group founded by artistic director Amichai Lau-Lavie.
Lau-Lavie, like his organization, has an interesting pedigree. His work as
scholar-in-residence at New York City’s Congregation B’nai Jeshurun transformed
the staid, Saturday morning Torah services into pieces of dynamic performance
art that taught — as well as inspired.

Original music is woven into show, and the evening promises
to provide a modern take on the timeless themes of power, vengeance, sex and
politics. While “Estherminator” is the centerpiece of the evening, it’s still a
party. Drinking and dancing will get equal billing, with a live DJ and a cash
bar both before and after the performance.

“We’re hoping to attract a funky and cutting-edge crowd
from the more radical, underground Jewish arts scene,” saidStorahtelling
marketing director,Stephanie Pacheco.

Brazilian Night Singles Party

What better way to honor Los Angeles’ dizzying polyglot
culture than to gather together in West Hollywood to celebrate an ancient
Persian story with booze, kosher food, music, Brazilian dancers and a
Vegas-style casino?

At Brazilian Night, the fourth annual Purim party hosted by
the Iranian American Jewish Federation’s (IAJF) Youth Division, you don’t have
to be Iranian to come and celebrate, or to meet that special someone. All
Jewish singles between the ages of 21 and 38 are welcome to dance to music spun
by DJ Shaad, dine on glatt kosher hors d’oeuvres, gamble at the casino tables
with $1,000 faux dollars in chips that will be handed out at the door, win
prizes and shimmy to the tropical beat of live Brazilian dancers.

IAJF planners say they expect a strong turnout of singles,
as they have in years past. Youth Division Chair Elliot Benjamin said this will
be the fourth year they’ve held the Purim party, and it’s always a hit.

Shushan Revisited

Now in its third year, Purim Extravaganza 3 at the Century
Club is a veritable tradition in Los Angeles. This year, the festivities are
sponsored by the Happy Minyan, Olam and the Chai Center.The party is geared
toward “Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, non-affiliates and any Jew that moves,”
host Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz says in his press release.

With Megillah readings beginningat 7 p.m. and continuing
every hour from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., the evening will also include entertainment
by Yehuda Glantz, Peter Himmelman, Gregg Fisher, The Happy Minyan Band and
comedians seen on Leno and Letterman.

For more information, check our Arts and Calendar sections.

  • ATID’s Purim Bash at Bergamot: Monday, March 17, 8 p.m.,
    Bergamot Station Art Center, Track 16 Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa
    Monica. $25 cover includes all food, drinks and entertainment. Costumes
    encouraged. Reservations are required. Call (310) 481-3244; or visit
    www.fridaynightlive.net.

  • Estherminator: Sunday, March 16. Doors open at 8 p.m. $8
    (with costume); $10 without. Club Echo, 1822 West Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles.
    For information, call (323) 761-8350.

  • Brazilian Night Singles Party: Saturday, March 15, at the
    Iranian American Jewish Center, 1317 N. Crescent Heights Blvd., Los Angeles.
    Doors open at 8 p.m. Admission is a donation to IAJF; $40 (in advance) $50 (at
    the door). Ladies entering before 9:30 p.m. are charged 2 for 1 (either in
    advance or door ticket sales). For tickets or more information, call (323)
    656-3150.

  • Purim Extravaganza 3 at The Century Club, 10131
    Constellation Ave. Century City. $15. Costumes optional. For more
    information, call (310) 285-7777 or (310) 391-7995.