Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Costume Crisis

As Purim approaches, a sense of desperation is beginning to set in among Jewish role models everywhere. “Last year it was so easy. My wife’s sheitel, a skirt, a pair of fake tefillin, and the cheap laughs just rolled in,” says one educator who chose to remain nameless. “But this year, who am I going to mock?”

Last year, SAR High School permitted two girls to wear tefillin, setting off a firestorm of controversy and inspiring a number of “SAR girl in tefillin” Purim costumes. The incognito ensembles allowed educators to impart lessons in an active manner, serving as material manifestations of insults towards heretics. In the words of one such role-model, “I’m usually only able to verbally ridicule those I disagree with, but now I can mamish teach by example.”

The negative consequences go further. Some are now forced to spend time normally dedicated to learning Torah thinking about a costume. Others have even given up on wearing a costume at all. “If I can’t set an example with what I wear, I’ll have to get doubly drunk this year,” says Rabbi Chaim (Jeremy) Schwartz.* “That way I can really express my love of Hashem for all to see.”

Although the situation seems dire, options seem to exist. Why not dress up like Barry Freundel? “Rabbi Barry Freundel should not be mocked,” Rabbi Schwartz argues. “He is just a good man who fell victim to his yetzer hara. You can’t equate what he did to girls wearing tefillin. Only one of them is true heresy.” Wise words from a man of morals.

Costumes aren’t the only problem; Purim shpiels are in danger as well. Last year’s scripts mocking girls wearing tefillin are no longer relevant. And the situation is dicey. “Without an easy target that everyone can make fun of, students are now going to make fun of others in our school,” says student-activities director Rabbi Noam Farbstein. “We can’t leave our students open to public ridicule.” Sound hypocritical? Not so, says Rabbi F. “We don’t really know the names of the girls who wear tefillin, so it’s not really that bad. It’s almost like they aren’t actual people in our students’ eyes. The boys won’t feel like they are saying real Lashon Hara."

But all hope is not lost. As I write these words, Shalhevet High School of Los Angeles is furiously investigating all leads into potentially scandalous decisions made at SAR in the past few months. According to editor Samantha Silver, “we’ve heard rumors of potential mechitza-removing and Triangle-K eating, but nothing we can confirm at this time.” Such news would be music to the ears of many. “I’m really hoping for something to come up soon,” said a local Rebbetzin. “My children really need to learn the importance of properly placed scorn and contempt. Isn’t that what Purim is all about?”


*All names have been changed for the sake of privacy

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