Rabbi Aaron Potek, GatherDC’s infamous rabbi and provocateur, is pushing the envelope yet again.
Potek announced earlier this week that he will be hosting an alternative Purim experience this Wednesday night…in a synagogue.
It’s a risky move for someone who works with Jewish 20s and 30s, many of whom don’t connect to synagogues. But Potek thinks the idea just might be crazy enough to work.
“We were originally looking to host this in an abandoned warehouse or something hipster like that,” he said. “But then we realized that synagogues were just as abandoned and even more unexpected. I mean, honestly, where’s the last place you’d want to celebrate Purim?”
Some Jewish leaders are calling this the most innovative program to happen in DC in years. “You look at the landscape here – Hannukah Happy Hours, Shabbat Happy Hours, Happy Hours for Immigrants’ Rights, or even just generic monthly Happy Hours… it’s literally all Happy Hours,” said Mordy Goldstone, head of OJO, an outdated Jewish organization. “It takes real vision and out-of-the-box thinking to come up with something as genius as this.”
But others, specifically from the religious community, are less enthusiastic. Observant Jews typically celebrate Purim in a bar or at a festive party – eating and drinking in complete and total excess. Potek’s new idea is a serious departure from tradition.
“God clearly thinks Purim must be celebrated in a bar,” said Avi Frumstein a religious Jew and apparently God’s spokesman. (God did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)
“Rabbi Potek has crossed a line here and his ordination should be revoked,” continued Frumstein. When pressed on whether that response was perhaps an overreaction, Frumstein doubled down. “My seemingly random, zealous passion on this insignificant, meaningless issue is actually just my way of overcompensating for a lack of passion about my insignificant, meaningless life.”
Potek seems to have embraced the controversy behind his initiative.
“I guess I am trying to challenge what it means to be religious, which is not only about drinking and partying,” he said. “You can be religious in a synagogue, too.”
When asked why she planned to attend the alternative Purim experience in a synagogue this year, Pam Scherzer said it sounded “exotic.” She elaborated, “I’m into alternative spirituality – for example, my friends and I all do yoga, which is basically like a workout class, but with a smack of Sanskrit. But I’m even more into telling people that I’m into alternative spirituality. So I’m looking forward to telling people that I went to this so I can sound cool and different without actually being too different because I’m uncomfortable with difference.”
So what can people expect at the event itself?
“No costumes, no groggers, no hamantaschen,” Potek said. “Those are all distractions from a holiday that’s meant for adults. We’re going to read from the scroll of Esther – about an ostentatious, vindictive, womanizing ruler – and see if we can find any modern-day parallels.”
That goal may be overly ambitious for a population that seems perfectly content with an un-compelling, childish, kitschy Judaism. But maybe, just maybe, a few people will move past the conversation about the location of the event and actually engage with the content of the holiday.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are not even those of the original author. They are totally made up – Happy Purim!