LAKEWOOD, NJ – Some residents in the area were outraged this past Purim in Lakewood after photos of several school-aged children wearing black face were posted to social media.
Fred Rush, the local NAACP chapter president said he had met with Lakewood Township’s religious and community leaders to discuss the photos and future Purim celebrations.
Purim is a day when Orthodox Jewish children dress up in costumes, much like the annual Halloween ritual we all celebrate.
The following photos are from Brooklyn, not Lakewood.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn (2021). Orthodox Jewish residents dress up for the Purim holiday. Photographed by Mel Cole. pic.twitter.com/el4w5wqrU5
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It is a holiday that is celebrated each year on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar, typically in February or March. It marks the day Hamam, who planned to kill all the Jews in the Old Persian empire was defeated by Mordecai and Esther.
It is typically a joyous celebration where people exchange gifts, eat food, and drink alcohol to celebrate their victory over Hamam.
Children and many adults don costumes as part of the celebration.
In 2021, photos were released of several children wearing black face, which is seen as offensive to members of the African American community.
“The holiday of Purim is celebrated to commemorate the miracles that happened to us more than 2,000 years ago,” the Lakewood VAAD, a council of Jewish leaders said in a statement. “A wicked Haman wanted to annihilate the Jews but his decree was overturned. For millennia we have celebrated this great miracle by dressing in costume, gifting, merry-making, holding a festive meal, and helping the poor.”
The VAAD said it condemned the wearing of black face costumes during purim.
“As part of reminding ourselves that Haman tried to hang Mordechai and commit a Holocaust against the Jews, some respond with merrymaking of hanging Haman in effigy. In today’s culture such is perceived by others as reminiscent of their own tragic history and thus this is not appropriate for a Jew to do,” the Lakewood VAAD said. “Dressing as a member of another culture was once part of Purim and pictures of old show Jews innocently costumed on Purim as Romans, Greeks, Cossacks, Arabs, and as members of other groups. Today this is seen as offensive, and we are sensitive to the feelings of other groups. Dressing in blackface is particularly inappropriate and offensive, and should never be done.”