Today’s news:

Cops and brides are Purim’s hottest costumes

The Brooklyn Paper

Forget ghosts and witches — the most popular costumes for this year’s Hasidic Halloween are cops and brides.

Williamsburg’s Orthodox Jews will celebrate Purim next Thursday by attending synagogue, raising money for religious schools, baking kosher cookies, and — most importantly for the kids — wearing colorful costumes.

For the past week, a stream of Satmar families clothed in black wool suits and skirts have mobbed the neighborhood’s toy stores, eager to pick out the perfect gowns and uniforms for their children.

And Lee Avenue’s Toys 4 U, which has branches in Williamsburg and Borough Park, is at the center of the scrum.

“It’s a happy holiday — children get presents and collect money for charity,” said Toys 4 U proprietor Joseph Itzkowitz, who isn’t picky when it comes to costumes. “Whatever costume parents buy, that’s my favorite,” he said.

The religious holiday commemorates Queen Esther’s victory over King Ahasuerus’s vengeful court advisor, Haman, and the deliverance of the Jews from fourth century Persia.

Its masquerades resemble Halloween, and Jews throughout the world have used the occasion of their deliverance to dress up in fun — and sometimes racy — outfits and party into the small hours.

But unlike secular and modern Orthodox Jews, Hasidic youth dress in more conservative costumes, like cops and brides.

Law enforcement and weddings aren’t the only popular themes — some revelers find inspiration in history.

“The story of Purim is about princesses and kings,” said United Jewish Organizations director David Niederman. “This is a way for kids to understand the story of Purim and participate.”

That explains another of the year’s top sellers: princess dresses.

“Everybody wants to be a princess and dreams about being a queen,” said Miriam Itzkowitz, of Toys 4 U. “One day, she can be a princess.”

Boys reached for military camouflage, black rabbi frocks, and, most often, police uniforms.

“They see police on the street, there are a lot of them, and they know who they are,” said Joseph Itzkowitz.

Families with toddlers were aiming for all things sweet, grabbing adorable strawberry, apple, and honeybee costumes.

For older kids, the holiday has less to do with costumes than community service.

Many unmarried teenage boys will spend Purim driving around Williamsburg with rented RVs, trying to raise cash for their yeshivas.

“It’s a big day for fundraising,” said Gary Schlesinger, of the Jewish community organization UJcare, who claims each RV raises about $10,000. “They dress up and go around hitting up wealthy donors in the community for $300 or $400.”

And unmarried young girls often walk door-to-door with their parents to raise money and hand out pastries called hamentaschen, stuffed cabbage, and other treats.

That said, most do their charitable works while wearing colorful wigs and clown-like get-ups.

“I’m going to wear something very different, very colorful,” said Tzvi Lazar, who was helping families pick out costumes for their children at Toys 4 U. “I’ll have white and pink pants, an orange shirt, and rainbow socks.”

For Hasidic parents, the holiday is a joyous one — and a subtle reminder that their children are growing older.

“My son, who is 2-and-a-half, is going to be a rebbe, and my 4-year-old daughter is going to be a bride, with a fancy bridal gown,” said Williamsburg resident David Gross. “Last year she was a strawberry shortcake.”

Reader poll

Pin It
Print this story Permalink

Reader Feedback

adamben from bedstuy says:
it is not hasidic/jewish halloween. it is a holiday where jewish children put on costumes. it's like calling easter catholic bugs bunny day. well, ok, it may be bugs bunny day, but...
March 2, 2012, 1:27 pm
Josh from Flatbush says:
I will dress myself as a undercover cop.
March 5, 2012, 12:57 pm
moish from flatbush says:
I dress as one of Rupert Murdoch's Brooklyn reporters.
Freilelchen Pirim
March 5, 2012, 1:39 pm
christopher from Bedford-stuyvesant says:
Where are the hookers, pimps, gangsters that we have on our Halloween? What a boring bunch.
March 6, 2012, 9:33 am

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not BrooklynPaper.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to BrooklynPaper.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Links