By Yaffi Spodek
It was a brisk, overcast Sunday afternoon in the Midwood section of Brooklyn, but underneath the ominous clouds the sidewalks were crowded with smiling children and adults. Some were dressed in costume—chefs, clowns, kings and queens—while others wore funny masks. Many carried baskets of food and drink to deliver to friends and neighbors.
At around 1 p.m., the traffic along Avenue L, between East 12th and 13th Streets, suddenly slowed to a halt. Police sirens could be heard in the distance, accompanied by the rare sound of hooves beating against the pavement. A black horse made its way down the middle of the avenue. Its rider was a young man with a long white artificial beard, wearing a big gold crown and a royal purple and gold cape, waving to everyone. A disheveled, bearded older man in a gray overcoat was leading the horse. Several police cars brought up the rear.
People gathered outside their houses on either side of the block, hoping to catch a glimpse of the intriguing duo. Several men ran up and down the streets holding buckets, soliciting money from the spectators.
The Orthodox Jewish community was celebrating the holiday of Purim, a particularly joyous occasion on the Jewish calendar that commemorates the salvation of the Jews of Persia from Haman’s plot to annihilate them, as recorded in the Book of Esther. The street scene was a small re-enactment of the Purim story, one that occurs every year. The money collected goes to a charity called Yad Eliezer, which provides food for those in the Jewish community who cannot afford to buy it.
“Look, it’s Mordechai on a horse,” a little girl, dressed as a princess, said to her mother, referring to the hero of the Purim story. “And he’s being taken around by Haman.” She pointed excitedly. The girl’s mother deposited a dollar into one of the buckets.