Wearing Costumes When It’s Not Purim

This year Purim felt different.  While it’s true that celebrating the Jewish holidays in Israel is a much richer experience than it has been elsewhere, Purim felt, well, bland.  I can meet up with friends and act silly any day.  I thought that maybe by dressing up differently (my costume was Carmen Sandiego) that I would feel differently.

That’s usually the way it works anyways.  I have much more productive work from home days when I get out of pajamas, for instance.  The clothes make the woman.

But I think I feel like I am wearing a costume every day.  About a year and half after adapting my wardrobe to what I would call an observant Jewish “dress code”, I don’t miss my old clothes, but it is not yet “me”.

Clothes have cultural implications, too.  A polo and khaki skirt from the Gap is a different presentation of self than long, flowy layers and sandalim.  I think I can pull off both.  In one I am more “Ilene” and in the other I am “Ilana”.  Lately, I’ve taken to being “Ilana” when I speak Hebrew and “Ilene” in English.  It makes sense in my head, but I think it confuses others who see me in both settings.

I wear costumes professionally too, wearing lots of hats.  When sitting among a technologically savvy crowd, learning about the latest web applications and searching tools, I might struggle to keep up. When I turn to community organizers and writers just starting out with websites, I often feel like I’m talking to myself, because all the gadgets and gizmos just don’t matter.

All of these realities are justified.  What is right for one community does not fit in another.  I find myself constantly bridging communities.  I suppose that is my role as a writer and communicator.  Aside from the thieving bit, maybe the reason why Carmen Sandiego didn’t feel like a costume is because traveling around and exploring geography and history is simply what I do all the time.  It’s just when I think that I’ve settled in and figure things out that the questions and exploration start anew.

I think though that that is the Jewish way.  Never in my reading of the Torah have I come across a section where it said something like: “And then the Israelites put up their feet and rested and drank mai thais because all was quiet and their stock portfolio was doing well.” Constant struggle, internal and external, is the way to grow.  It’s not about the destination but the process.

Holidays too, are just fleeting moments that a part of a cycle that flows from the day before until the day after.  And so on.


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Ilene Rosenblum is a writer and marketing professional living in Jerusalem.

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