Pushing the Purim Spiel Envelope at Jewish Museum Ball
Sparkling and irreverent does not begin to describe the Jewish Museum’s 29th Annual Purim Ball at which more than 700 guests — with credentials in the arts, fashion, philanthropy and entertainment — mingled at the Armory which was decorated with thousands of bathed-in-purple light shimmering miniature mirrors suspended overhead…helped raise $2 million.
Claudia Gould, the museum’s Helen Goldsmith Menschel director, introduced museum chairman emeritus Morris Offit, and Meyer Sulzberger Award recipients — still working-at-96 president of Eugene M. Grant & Company LLC real estate investment and development firm, and philanthropist Eugene Grant and his wife Emily Grant. Among Grant’s life philosophy gems: “Give love…help all forms of Jewish community organizational life” and “give thanks for a treasured productive life as an American Jew in this goldene medineh (golden land).”
Touting Purim Ball honoree photographer, artist, filmmaker Laurie Simmons — subject of an upcoming Jewish Museum exhibition opening March 13 — Gould informed that the early Simmons film short showing skimpily clothed underwater female swimmers — Simmons with camera included — was shot in Queens College’s swimming pool. Gould also revealed that when it came to choosing the evening’s Purimspieler–it was Simmons’ daughter Lena Dunham — creator and star of HBO series “Girls” and herself a 2013 Purim Ball Museum honoree who,“coming to the rescue,” suggested Senior Art Critic for New York Magazine Jerry Saltz.
Introduced by Gould as “The Larry David of the art world [who] brings art history, Jewish history and his very, very unique sense of humor to the Purimspiel,” Saltz launched his spin with: “Hello Jew New York! or Boca Raton!, Scarsdale and Mamaroneck in the house! …Haifa! Happy Purim Jews and not Jews…We start with King Ahatzurus of 5th century Persia [a blow up photo of Donald Trump on a large screen] who 50 years ago tore down the Fontainebleau in Jerusalem [alternating photo montages of Koch Brothers, Herman Cain and others on screen].
“The king is married to Queen Vashti” — [Sarah Palin] as onscreen pictures ran the gamut from an unclad Cher to a Kardashian derriere and, among others, Liz Taylor. “The king summons his wife] Vashti. She refused; she had a headache — a Jewish American princess — [oddly she’s not Jewish!]. They kill her. The king needs new wife. Enter Mordechai, a kind of Jewish busybody… activist….Isaac Mizrahi [a guest at the ball] speculated he might have been a gay designer… Esther wins the contest — it is the first intermarriage. Just think about it — the Queen of Persia being a Jew. Mordechai, dressed as Dame Edna, Haman (graggers!!!) suffered from speckle shmekel syndrome [Yiddish euphemism for the male member with accompanying medieval naked male organ images]. The king realizes that Haman is a scum anti-Semite…Esther tells the king she and Mordechai are Jewish…. Jews want the right to defend themselves. America arms the Jews, gives them weapons and the Six-Day War basically took place and the Jews won and that’s the reason you are here today and not enslaved.” During our light-hearted dinner chat, Saltz told me that his grandparents came from Estonia and that before this event he had never heard of Purim.
Among the evening’s masks, my favorites were the couple I dubbed “the cabbage heads.” More than 500 — mostly young — revelers were at the After Party.