Seeking puppet-makers and puppeteers for Purim!

Purim puppets.

Dear friends and members of CBI,

David Lane and I just met to begin planning for our annual Purimspiel, and this year we’re doing something at once exciting, new, and ancient and time-honored: puppetry!

Puppet shows were a popular form of entertainment in many ancient Mediterranean civilizations. After the fall of the Roman Empire, theatrical traditions continued in Europe through puppet shows, many of which dramatized scriptural stories. (During the Middle Ages, puppet shows with religious themes became popular attractions at fairs and in village marketplaces.) Religious puppetry has an ancient history in India, Japan, and Bali, as well.

Judaism, almost alone among world religious traditions, doesn’t have a longstanding tradition of puppetry — though we know of Jewish puppetry arising in the 1700s (Portugese puppeteer Antonio Jose da Silva) and extending into the 20th century (primarily as a vehicle for Yiddish theatre and for stories about the wise fools of Chelm.) Puppets and marionettes were used to lift the spirits of children and adults alike in Theresienstadt, where at Purim-time the inmates told the Purim story using puppetry although such entertainments were strictly forbidden. Now Jewish puppetry is coming to CBI.

We plan to gather kids (and parents) on a few weekends in February (Sunday Feb 12, in the afternoon; Sunday Feb 19, in the morning) to make the puppets (out of dowels and papier-mache) and decorate their costumes. David will teach our young puppeteers how to manipulate the puppets. And then on March 7 at 7pm, we’ll gather in the sanctuary here (costumes welcome) to watch the dramatic story of Esther, Mordechai, Achashverosh, and the evil Haman unfold before our eyes.

We’ll need six puppeteers to work the main character puppets; if more kids want to be involved, there are scenes which can involve “extras,” so we’ll find a way to use all of the puppets our kids want to make. If you’re interested in being a part of this fabulous creative endeavor, let me know (rebrachel at cbiweb dot org) asap. Don’t miss this chance for hands-on creativity as we create this year’s communal Purim celebration!

Purim falls midway through the lunar month of Adar. There’s an old Jewish saying: “When Adar enters, joy increases!” Here’s to an Adar filled with puppets, togetherness, and joy.

Reb Rachel

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