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Shpieling in a Pandemic

The tradition of a Purim Shpiel dates back to from the fifteenth century (or earlier), and they have an important place in Jewish history. Purim Shpiels not only bring us some comic relief, but they also tell the Purim story with historical reference and cultural flavor. From a Purim Shpiel written and performed in the ghettos during the Nazi era, in which Haman was depicted as Hitler to our very own Pandemic Purim, which depicts our life in quarantine and on zoom.

It has been traditional that the actors in these “Shpiels” were students, artists and musicians. They would dress up so well that no one would even be able to recognize them! Our writer, our “shrayber,” of the Shpiel is actually a generational pass. Ki member, Evan Schwartz, who wrote our Purim Shpiel for many years, now passed the baton to his son Oren Schwartz (son of Evan Schwartz and Lynn Rosen) who is a recent graduate of Cheltenham High School as well as our KI Confirmand. In addition, our actors are all members of our youth group KIFTY. They are: Jacob Kane, Sydnee Ostroff, Lucas Golluber, Naomi Guth, Zoe Freedman, Nicole Farber, and of course, Oren Schwartz.

We have had a long tradition of congregational Purim Shpiels with both student and adult actors. For many years, I ran a class in Quest Noar just to work on the Purim Shpiel with our talented teenagers. In a few of our Shpiels we included our adult Classic Rock Band- “The Jewveniles”- led by Craig Reinheimer.

Here are just a few of the shpiels performed in the last 5-10 years: Schmaltz Grease PlayThe Lion King Shpiel; The following were written by our congregant Evan Schwartz: Shpiel…of…Fortune Purim T.V. Guide EditionBye, bye HAMAN (With apologies to Bye Bye Birdie); Purim Shpiel to “Guys and Dolls”; Throwback to Shushan, featuring the Jewveniles;  Western Esther; and South Side Story.

What is most striking about this year’s Shpiel is that it IS so relevant to our current situation/feelings. Oren has done a fabulous job of integrating our pandemic “clothing”- a.k.a. “pjs” and challenges on zoom, and the dark comedy of quarantine. Just as it has been done for centuries, we have a Shpiel written by our own artist, performed by our own actors, in a story that mirrors our current reality. Please join us tonight at 6:00pm for our Shpiel, our Megillah reading, and our songs of celebration.

Happy Purim to all, and remember to keep your “masks” on for the show!