Purim talent show brought community together with costumes, nerves and cheers


BP Photo by Alyssa Wallack

AMERICAN: Jewish History teacher Mr. Jeremy Shine put on an act in which he took on the characteristics of an American. Through using what he understood of Americans, he was able to impersonate them.

Freshman Victory Fuchs sat anxiously in her seat as she waited to be called up to the stage in front of the whole school last month for the Purim Talent Show.

She’s been studying singing for five years and had practiced her aria, “Je Veux Vivre” from Charles Gounod’s five-act opera Romeo et Juliet, countless times.  But even though she had volunteered to sing that day, suddenly she wondered why she was there.

“When they called my name, I immediately had second thoughts about performing,” said Victory later.

She said she asked Nick Parsons, the school’s technology director, what to do.

What I really like is that everyone is supportive of everyone’s talents, even when you would think it’s a weird talent, no one is embarrassed, because they are a part of this community.

— Ms. Ilana Wilner, Director of Student Activities

“I went up to Nick and I said, ‘Should I just quit now, should I just not do it?’” she said.

“I was shaking uncontrollably, my heart was beating so fast, and I was really nervous. But all my practicing made performing so much more natural.I took some deep breaths, calmed myself down and I told myself that I could do it.”

Purim, which which this year was on March 21, is supposed to be about celebrating life and Jewish identity, after the Jewish people’s pur – literally “lot,” or destiny — was to perish, and Haman drew lots to choose a date. Jewish communities around the world dress up, throw parties and put on carnivals to tell and celebrate the story.

School is closed for the holiday, so the school party was held the next day, on “Shushan Purim” — which history records is when it was celebrated in Queen Esther’s time. This year’s event was held March 22.

It included a costume contest, though no winner was declared.  Costumes ranged from Captain Underpants to a handful of animal onesies and a group wearing caution tape, medical masks and signs reading “Caution: we have whooping cough,”’ to represent the recent pertussis outbreak at school.

There were about 10 performances – fewer than usual because the holiday was the same week as four school-sponsored trips — the Sarachek basketball tournament, the Boiling Point’s CSPA trip, the Robotics shabbaton, and the AIPAC Policy Conference.

But those who did perform took it pretty seriously. During the week before Purim, Victory practiced her aria three times every day.

“I practiced like I always do,” Victory said. “I go into my garage, I play the song, either a karaoke version or another singer singing it, and I practice. I really wanted my performance to be good.”

Victory thought her performance was just okay, but the audience roared with applause when she finished singing.

There were also impressions, dance and lots singing and piano.  Daniella Silva, Shalhevet receptionist, sang “Someone Like You” by Adele. Freshmen Danielle Finn and Amanda Wannon sang “Tatty My King” with fellow freshman Audrey Gold on piano.

Senior Bailey Mendelson played piano a song she had written, titled “Lay Me Down.” Her younger sister, freshman Anya, performed an interpretive dance that she choreographed to the song “Africa” by Toto.

A group of six senior girls who were dressed as the boys basketball team presented a dance to the song “Get Your Head In the Game” from the movie High School Musical.  The Judaic Studies department had made a video titled “Shali Shtark,” based on the popular “Baby Shark” song.

The carnival was organized by the Student Activities Committee, led by Judaic Studies teacher Ms. Ilana Wilner. Ms. Wilner said that the talent show is not only about the unique talents being performed, but also about the community-building that goes along with dressing up in silly and creative costumes or presenting a quirky skill or act.

“What I really like is that everyone is supportive of everyone’s talents, even when you would think it’s a weird talent, no one is embarrassed, because they are a part of this community,” Ms. Wilner said.

“I think that is the point of Purim. Haman’s critique on us is that we are a spread-out, dispersed nation, so all the mitzvot that we do in Purim we have to do with other people.”

She said mishloach manot, gifts to one another; matanot l’evyonim, gifts to the poor; Megillah reading and the Purim meal, or seudah, are all about bringing people together.

“And that’s a little bit of what we are doing here at the talent show,” Ms. Wilner said.  “I think that the fact that people are in costumes makes them feel more comfortable to show their true self on stage.”

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