by Carolyn Bick
Thousands of years ago, Esther fought to keep a marginalized group of people from being murdered. And though her bravery is celebrated with costumes, pastries, and parties today, modern Purim celebrations still center those who are under siege.
That’s what Kadima Reconstructionist Community’s annual Purim party aims to do, Stefanie Brendler said. Brendler is a member of the synagogue, and is coordinating and planning the event.
“It’s not just a party or a concert, it’s a community cultural gathering for Purim,” Brendler said. “You are invited to get mixed up and confused, and spinning around, and dancing.”
This year’s party will take place at the Columbia City Theater on March 21 at 7 p.m., and feature Iraquis in Pajamas, Shpilkis, and The Debaucherauntes. There will also be a Purim shpiel, or storytelling segment, that starts at 8 p.m.
The story of Esther and Purim is relatable to many marginalized communities today, Brendler said. In order to save Persia’s Jews from being murdered, Esther, a Jew, concealed her identity and married King Ahasuerus; and when Ahasuerus was about to allow his evil vizier Haman to exterminate all of Persia’s Jews, Esther revealed she herself was a Jew. The Jewish people were spared, and Purim celebrates this victory. In addition to singing and dancing, every time Haman’s name is uttered in a traditional Purim retelling, celebrants yell and make noise with groggers, or ratchet instruments.
The story of Purim has resonated deeply with the queer community, Brendler said, because it reflects the process of coming out.
“It’s seen as a form of allyship, coming out, and being true to yourself, and also as a form of, what high and powerful places can we get into to change the power dynamic?” Brendler said.
This year, the event focuses on the vantage point from a walled city.
“What does it mean to be from places with walls?” Brendler asked. “What does it mean to be from a place that is building or tearing down walls?”
“How do we retell the story of Purim as a form of advocacy for people stuck behind walls, who are imprisoned? People who are fleeing tyrannical governments and crossing borders?” she continued. “There is a lot of cross-pollination. How do we decide what tactics are appropriate, in any given situation, in a power struggle?”
Ticket price for the event is on a sliding scale, based on what a person can afford, from $6 to $360. The event is meant to support immigration justice through the Rapid Response Network, which will be on-site, as well as Real Rent Duwamish. Most of the proceeds will go towards Real Rent Duwamish and some will go to Kadima Reconstructionist Community. The party is co-sponsored by the South Seattle Emerald, Jewish Voice for Peace Seattle, If Not Now Seattle, and the Center & Southeast Interfaith Migrants Rights Network.
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