Monday, March 13, 2017

Purim (aka Jewish Halloween), as Seen by the Street Style Photographer Mister Mort 

Once a year, the religious Jewish enclaves of Brooklyn turn into what at first sight looks like a joyous, family-affair style Halloween celebration. But it’s not Halloween; it’s Purim, or the Jewish spring holiday that celebrates the ancient story of Queen Esther, who kept her Jewish identity hidden from her husband King Ahasuerus and, later on, thwarted the king’s evil advisor Haman’s plan to destroy the Jewish people. Fast-forward centuries later, and the holiday is observed with the idea of disguising oneself—a hat tip to the valiant Queen Esther—but under much more cheerful circumstances. Think: costumes, candy, and cookies.

Brooklyn-bred photographer Mordechai Rubinstein, best known from his Instagram handle @mistermort and his hashtags such as #beautyintheeveryday, went back to his ultra-Orthodox childhood neighborhood of Crown Heights (home to the Lubavitch sect of Judaism), as well as Williamsburg, Flatbush, and Borough Park, to capture the festive day among different Hasidic communities. “Purim is Jewish upside-down day. Every day is black and white,” he writes, referring to the strict black-and-white uniform look of ultra-Orthodox Jews from the area. “Today, pink and yellow.”

So what to see? There are plenty of over-the-top costumes that typically have a religious flair. Boys wear Knicks uniforms over their black pants and coordinate their skullcaps, or rather yarmulkes. Girls in Yankees jerseys wear an extra shirt underneath to cover their elbows and female astronauts wear shin-grazing skirts—an observance of tznius, or “modesty.” A Lilliputian pilot has tzitzit—the tassels of a small prayer cloak—peeking out from under his pert inflight shirt. One of the most creative takes on Purim is when children dress up like their elders, some appearing as if they may tip over in a too-big fur shtreimel, a hat of the Satmar sect. Other variants on head coverings? Adults and children both get into the fun wearing cheeky colorful hats. (Even a sequined fedora makes a cameo.) Though, one thing everyone can agree on: Planning for next year’s costume starts the moment the holiday has ended. Zei gezunt!


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