On March 18, 2008, Purim and Good Friday coincided, something that has not occurred since 1910 and will not happen again for about 75 years. On the happy, boisterous Jewish holiday of Purim, we celebrate how the courage of Queen Esther saved the Jewish people, complete with story-telling, masks, noisemakers and costumes.
On the Upper West West, we had both happy Purim celebrators, and solemn street processions, originating from local churches were in the streets carrying effigies, crucifixes and even a mock coffin.
We spend Purim eve in the wonderful, pleasant, unpretentious, chaos of Congregation Ansche Chesed. The service for young children was packed with families and many young Queen Esthers, Mordachais, kings and others like 5 year old Batman (who loved his costume and paraded back and forth in front of the young Esthers). The adult service had stranger costumes, and the “scotch club” circulated offering shots. Fun!
The next day, Purim and Good Friday, I went with a friend to the historic Spanish and Portuguese Synagoguebut we learned that we had missed the morning service. The cantor, Rabbi Rohde, gave us the most generous Purim gift: he read the entire megillah (story of Esther) for us in a beautiful, historic side chapel. A friend of his and her young daughter joined us there. He did this for the four of us. What a generous and kind man! This congregation is always welcoming but this was extaordinary.
So, on this day, both traditions mixed easily and comfortably. In the difficult history of the past in Europe, Good Friday was often a day for attacks on Jews. My mother who was born in Poland, told us that on Good Friday they were not allowed outdoors by their parents in order to keep them safe. Thankfully, we live in quite a different world.
Queen Esther and Easter, names from an even older religious past of the ancient Earth Goddess of the mid-east, met and got along just fine on today’s the Upper West Side.