Purim

Purim

Purim at Kehila is a festive, hilarious and delicious occasion traditionally celebrated on the Sunday nearest the holiday, and sometimes even on the actual day. Kehilaites of all ages wear holiday finery, or at least some combination of bathrobes, headgear, ethnic items and household schmattas that they think approximates the attire of the royal Persian court. (For those who don't bring regalia from home, a large box supplied by Franca Posner has long provided just the feather boa, gold cape, plastic crown or multicolor Afghan that the well-dressed reveler's getup requires.)

The official proceedings begin with a service led by an exotically garbed Reb David, during which the Megilla is read and everyone's grogger arm gets a real workout. Sometimes there are varied skits and performances by Sunday School classes and a parade of the spectacularly costumed students, followed by prizes for the most outstanding outfits.

For some Kehilaites, the high (or low) point of the festivities is the adult play, which, since 1980 has made the Esther story come alive through the efforts of a large cast of Kehila kibitzers. In the early 1980s the play, written by Beryl Benderly (left), became a musical extravaganza thanks to the initiative of former member Leslie Milk, who introduced the first-ever song and actually had a good singing voice. Beryl later added a host of songs - Purim parodies on well-known ditties - and various other members also contributed original numbers. Every year lyrics comment on current events. Some of the songs have become Kehila traditions, and some have even been sung in tune.

Over the years, actual cases of musical talent have been noted among the singers. Most years accompanist Sam "I Am" Gutter persists in hopefully asking performers which key they're in, a query usually greeted by a blank stare.

The play has provided many memorable moments, most strikingly, perhaps, the early 1980s performance of the Rocky Horror Purim Show, in which Kehilaites swapped genders and enjoyed (if that's the word) such remarkable sights as David Kuperman's fetching Queen Esther in a blonde Marilyn Monroe wig and a slinky dress and Mark Posner in a pink tutu. Female Kehilaites generally made do with neckties, trousers and Groucho noses. Over the years, among standout performances years too numerous to mention have been Sharan Jayne's dues-paying eunuch, David Young's Dixie Ahashuerus, and many more.

After the play comes a bounteous lunch featuring many versions of hamantaschen and an elaborate carnival organized by the Kehila teens. At an array of exciting booths, the younger kids play a variety of games and win prizes, which have, over the years included goldfish, stuffed animals, candy and other treasures. Finally, alas, each year the carnival ends, the booths are dismantled, the costumes put away, and Kehilaites add another happy Purim to their memories.