Wednesday, March 07, 2012

In Staten Island's Pleasant Plains section, a religious tradition mistaken for hatred 

What some passers-by have mistaken as an effigy of a Hasidic Jew hung outside a Pleasant Plains home is, in fact, part of a religious
tradition — it was put up to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim. 

The effigy, a life-sized figure of a man, is suspended from the front door
of 134 Bloomingdale Rd., across the street from Yeshiva of Staten
Island. It drew a complaint to the local NYPD precinct last week, as
well as a call to the Advance this morning from a concerned citizen
worried that it might have been hung as a bias crime. 

In fact, says Rabbi David Ceder, the Yeshiva's head of security, it's nothing of the sort. 

Rather, the effigy represents Haman, the villainous adviser of Ahasuerus, King
of Persia, who plotted to wipe out the Persian Jewish population roughly 2,400 years ago.

The home belongs to Rabbi Shloma Eidelman,
the Yeshiva's executive director. He did not immediately return a phone
call seeking comment.

"Purim commemorates an amazing escape from
persecution about 2,400 years ago in Persia," Ceder said. "It's a very
joyous occasion for the Jewish people." 

The story is told in
the Book of Esther. Haman, the king's prime minister, is angered because the queen's uncle, Mordecai, won't bow to him, because as a Jew, he can only bow before God. 

He convinces the king to allow him to
kill the Jewish people of Persia, and casts lots to determine the day of the slaughter, but Mordecai and Esther, the queen, are able to turn the tables on Haman. At the end of the story, Esther reveals her Jewish
heritage at a banquet and exposes Haman's plans. The king orders Haman
be hanged, on the same gallows that were intended for Mordecai. 

Purim will be celebrated this year from sunset Wednesday to sunset Thursday. 

The effigy drew the attention of one Prince's Bay resident, who called the Advance after she drove by Bloomingdale Road. 

"I was so upset when I saw it," said the woman, who requested anonymity.
"I'm relieved it wasn't a hate crime.... I'm concerned because it's
right next door to a pre-school." 

She's not Jewish herself, she said, and wasn't familiar with the tradition. 
She's glad, she said, that she didn't rail about the effigy on her Facebook
profile. "I was almost going to put it on my Facebook, but I'm glad I
didn't do that. I would have a lot of explaining to do."


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