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Adults-Only Purim: Inappropriate, Yet Purimly Acceptable

Adults-Only Purim: Inappropriate, Yet Purimly Acceptable

We laughed so hard - at Cantor Doug Cotler's cleverly funny songs, at Rabbi Julia Weisz's ridiculously hysterical costumes, at my inappropriate yet Purimly-acceptable riffs on Megillat Esther, the story of Purim. We laughed out loud, belly laughed. And in between, we reflected on lessons of transcendent importance. We adults, we did.

"It was one of the most unorthodox service I have yet to attend at Congregation Or Ami. I say this in the most positive way," wrote David Silverstone. "Our two rabbis and cantor should receive an Academy Award at this years Oscars for their creative and entertaining performance. With out question, Rabbi Paul should receive the award for Best Performance in a Documentary, Rabbi Julia for Best Costume Design and Cantor Doug, who already has a Grammy Award to his credit, should now be the recipient of his first Oscar."

Not Pediatric Judaism... Not Your Father's (Uptight) Shul

Once again, Congregation Or Ami gathered on erev erev Purim (the night before the night of Purim) for an adults-only Purim celebration. The flyers and other PR were clear: This Shabbat eve would not be appropriate for children. Kids could come to Purim itself for our Multigenerational Purim Celebration, but this Friday night before was reserved for adults.

Not because there would be drunkenness. The pre-service wine and cheese gathering allowed for socializing but to my trained eye, no one really got tipsy (not even me. My ridiculousness came a different kind of high… being high on Purim-induced joy).

The adults-only experience grew out of the need of adults to have a safe space where they can be learners without fear of being teased for their lack of knowledge about the stories and traditions of our people. Creating an adult-only experience allowed adults to give voice to their questions and ideas. Pediatric Judaism gave way to questioning, grasping, and comprehending.

Melinda Pittler explained that "the adult Purim service was nice to enjoy adult only time, dressed in costume and spinning our groggers. It was fun because how often do we get to see our Rabbis and Cantor with "tattoos, mohawks and wigs" while leading a service?

The Whole Megillah: Farcical, Xenophobic, Dangerous

How empowering it was to read the whole megillah! (Okay, we sped-read through some sections, but for the most part, we read the whole text in English.) We laughed at the farcical nature of the story, making fun of the blatant male chauvinism and xenophobia (fear of strangers). We boo'ed Haman, and the unbounded evil he epitomizes.

We contemplated why all other mitzvot (religious obligations) are set aside for the reading of the Megillah except met mitzvah (the burial of an unattended corpse) (Rambam, Hilchot Purim 1:1). We concluded that the Purim story reminds us of the miracle; focuses us on the danger of leaving evil unchallenged; invites us to focus on where else God is hidden yet present in our lives; and pushes us to celebrate the simchas more than we ruminate over the sadness.

As Nina Treiman wrote, "The adult Purim celebration was funny, yet still educational, because we experienced it through unfiltered lenses." Robert Rosenthal: The best advice I can give you is "don't quit your day job". Thanks for the laughs. We had a great time.

Letting Our Hair Down

So donning costumes and silly hats, we let our hair down and celebrated. Adults being silly with adult while sitting in the sanctuary.

Sharon Weiss wrote, "The adult Purim celebration was an excellent time. It was great to be in an environment of laughter in our temple and to celebrate together. One of my favorite parts is seeing our clergy interact with each others and knowing they really like each other. I also really liked Cantor Doug's Politically-Correct version of the Megillah. I walked away smiling and happy."

Judaism as it is supposed to be experienced. As pure, unadulterated joy.

Rabbi Paul Kipnes the spiritual leader of Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas, CA. He serves as rabbinic dean at URJ Camp Newman in Santa Rosa, CA, and as vice president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Rabbi Kipnes and his wife Michelle November co-wrote Jewish Spiritual Parenting: Wisdom, Activities, Rituals and Prayers for Raising Children with Spiritual Balance and Emotional Wholeness (Jewish Lights). He also co-edited a national CCAR Journal issue on New Visions for Jewish Community. Under his leadership, Congregation Or Ami has won national awards for social justice programming, for innovative worship programming, for outreach to interfaith families, and for engaging family education, and for best overall use of technology in a synagogue. Or Ami also wins the hearts of its families for its Henaynu caring community, which reaches out during times of need. He serves on the Rhea Hirsch School of Jewish Education clinical faculty at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. His writings can be viewed on his blog, Or Am I? He tweets @RabbiKip.



Rabbi Paul Kipnes
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