Purim 2023

Clockwise from top, and in the artists own words:

Hanging Haman by Mark Podwal. This image was originally for my children’s book “A Sweet Year” (Random House), which was the catalogue for my 2003 exhibition at the Israel Museum Youth Wing. However, the publisher felt it not right for a children’s book, so it was not included. When that series was later exhibited at the Skirball Museum in LA and Yeshiva University Museum it was included.

Tanach Series; Esther by Joel Silverstein. Acrylic and collage mounted on wood, 48″ x 36″ . Partly derived from the work, Esther Before Ahasuerus, 1628-1630 by Artemisia Gentileschi at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Esther swoons as she pleads for her people, while in my version a Persian guard looks on.  

Purim by Ellen Alt. Markers and ink on paper. The Megillah, the scroll that is read on Purim is open. You can see the writing, which is based on the Hebrew script. The grogger shown on the upper right is a noise maker, made to drown out the name of Haman, as the story of Esther is read. The bowl is full of hamantaschen, traditional cookies based on the shape of Haman’s triangular hat. Together with the bottle of wine, these items represent Mishloah Manot, gifts of food and drink, traditionally given to neighbors and friends. The coins throughout are symbols of tzedakah, charity donated as an important part of the holiday.

Purim Light Up Boxes by Hillel Smith. It’s customary on Purim to give gifts of food to friends, called mishloach manot in Hebrew (or shalach manos in Yiddish). Every year I make new and crazy papercut mishloach manot packages for this ritual of edible gift giving. Last year’s cut-out relief boxes gave me an idea—what if the papercut was a secret, only to be revealed when the time is right?  At first glance, each box is just a regular icosahedron (math joke!), which I chose because it has a lot of triangles (think hamantaschen). Around the outside is inscribed verse 8:16 from Megillat Esther: לַיְּהוּדִים הָיְתָה אוֹרָה וְשִׂמְחָה וְשָׂשֹׂן וִיקָר — “The Jews had light and happiness, joy and honor.” (This verse also appears in the Havdallah prayer that ends Shabbat.) When it’s darkest, the boxes begin to glow. The boxes flash in bright colors and a “Happy Purim” message shines through, thanks to a hidden papercut and multi-colored blinking balloon lights. I hope these bring a little light to you in what can seem to be dark times.

Purim by David Wander. Detail of Megillat Esther scroll, 25″ x 50 feet.

Vashti’s Tail by Richard McBee. Talmud: Megillah 12b. And the queen Vashti refused. Let us see. She was immodest, as the Master said above, that both of them had an immoral purpose. Why then would she not come? — R. Jose b. Hanina said: This teaches that leprosy broke out on her. In a Baraitha it was taught that Gabriel came and fixed a tail on her. Used with permission of the Davka Corporation.

A Whole New Megillah Inaugural Performance by Ali Shrago-Spechler, video still. Since biblical times, leaders have often exploited people’s fear of the unfamiliar to categorize, dehumanize, and unify one group against another. A Whole New Megillah is a collaborative performance series that annually co-opts the story and rituals of Purim, merging them with American secular practices and politics to highlight power structures that repeat themselves throughout religious and non-religious histories.