Purim bash combines the holy with the holistic

Reading the advance info for “Dawn: The Open Temple Purim Bash,” which took place on March 24 at the Rose Room in Venice, the 6 a.m. start time might have appeared to be a typo. But it was not.
March 28, 2016

Reading the advance info for “Dawn: The Open Temple Purim Bash,” which took place on March 24 at the Rose Room in Venice, the 6 a.m. start time might have appeared to be a typo. But it was not. It was also no deterrent for the approximately 100 early risers who flocked to the event, the first Purim party in L.A. of its kind. 

Many in attendance knew going in what to expect. “Dawn” was inspired by the healthy-lifestyle Daybreaker events, a series of early morning raves begun two years ago in Williamsburg, N.Y., by Matthew Brimer and Radha Agrawal as a way to provide the young and young-at-heart with a nightlife-style experience at the crack of dawn — without the booze, the high heels and late-night haze. Daybreaker parties quickly found a big market and now enjoy a global following, including in Los Angeles. The freedom and escapism of a great party should be available to everyone, the founders believed, not just night-owl coeds and bar flies. To that end, Daybreaker offers an alternative path to community, to creating meaning.

Rabbi Lori Shapiro is doing something similar with Open Temple, a congregation she created in 2012 with the help of four families “who sought a contemporary way of ‘doing Jewish’ with a 21st-century vibe that would be inclusive of their interfaith families,” Shapiro said. 

When Shapiro — “an indefatigable networker” as one attendee described her — attended a Daybreaker party in Venice two years ago, she looked around at the hundreds of people dancing in costumes, high on kindred vibrations and celebrating the beginning of a new day, and thought, “This is Purim.” After meeting with local Daybreaker producer Andre Herd, who is Jewish, she got permission to set the wheels in motion to adapt the Daybreaker model for Open Temple’s Purim party. Herd even produced. 

“Daybreaker parties are sober raves where celebration is inspired by getting high on life, yoga, music and community,” Shapiro said. “As one of the mitzvot of Purim is to not be able to tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman (through alcohol), Open Temple’s Purim Bash challenged the reveler to achieve this through dance, celebration, projections of word and image [and] Om Shalom Yoga.”

“Dawn” kicked off with a one-hour yoga session led by Zack Lodmer of Om Shalom Yoga, allowing participants to greet the day by stretching their muscles and centering their chis. A dance party followed. Instead of a traditional Purim spiel, live performances featured aerialists and horn players. A tzedakah box at the front entrance invoked Purim’s commandment to give to the poor by collecting donations for SPY (Safe Place for Youth), which helps homeless youth in Venice. And a massive projector rotated biblical images and different verses from the Megillah behind the DJ booth, as well as messages of world peace and inclusivity reflecting the spirit of Open Temple. Hamantashen the size of bowling balls were free for the taking, along with protein and various other nutrition bars, hot coffee and freshly pressed juices, courtesy of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills’ YoPros, who partnered with Open Temple for the event. 

Rabbi Sarah Bassin of Temple Emanuel said it was the two synagogues’ first official partnership, hopefully the first of many. “We’re both rabbis who share an openness to partnerships and non-territorialism, and creating the best opportunities for people to connect,” Bassin said of Shapiro. “So we were really excited to participate in this and bring our people out.” 

Spoken word and guitar performances rounded out the event, which lasted until about 9 a.m.

Despite the early hour, nobody skimped on costumes — the space was flooded with painted faces, neon spandex and full-body leotards. One girl donned an L.A. Kings getup head to toe. One volunteer, Benny, was dressed as Quailman, Doug Funnie’s alter ego.

“Nice costume!” one woman shouted to him as she walked by. “It’s kind of reminiscent of tefillin — ”

“Yeah, that’s what I was going for, but I ran out of belts!” Benny said. He had attended his first Daybreaker a couple of weeks earlier and had heard “Dawn” would be a comparable alternative. 

“I have a friend who does Open Temple stuff, and she was like, ‘This one’s going on, and if you volunteer, you can get in for free!’ Last time I did it, I was out and sitting in traffic by 8:30 a.m. I took a conference call, and no one had any idea I was sitting in sweaty dance clothes.”

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