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Travel

Purim in Hasidic Williamsburg

Purim, the Jewish alternative to the Catholic bacchanalia of Carnaval, is the best day of the year for the Hasidic Jews of Williamsburg.

by Baruch Herzfeld
Mar 18 2014, 3:22pm

Baruch Herzfeld is a Brooklynite who left the Hasidic community a long time ago. This is what he has to say about Purim in Williamsburg, Brookyln: 

Purim, the little-known holiday that is the Jewish alternative to the Catholic bacchanalia of Carnaval, is the best day of the year for the Hasidic Jews of Williamsburg. The holiday, which occurred this weekend, is the only time of the year when they are really allowed to smile and have fun, and when it's warm enough to go outside but still cold enough that their multi­layered, 18th-century underwear and top layers don't make them itch and sweat and stink from every orifice.

Imagine you are a kid, 12 years old. Every day, you are in school till 7 PM—no TV, no video games, no bicycle, and maybe an hour a day to run around, tops.  Life is pretty shitty.  If you talk back to the teacher you get smacked.  If you are too pretty you get fondled. You spend your day failing to understand the point of your Talmudic studies, confused about who pays if your friend's cow falls into a pit on your neighbor's farm. Purim is your break from that. You get 24 hours off. Even though you are only 12, your dad lets you get drunk because he's drunk. You get to see all your parents and grandparents walk around in silly costumes. You stuff yourself on candy. You actually see people smiling on the street.

Life is pretty, pretty, pretty good. At least for 24 hours.