WHITEFISH BAY — You wouldn't expect costumes, parades, and live music to be something you'd hear in March, but walk down the hall of the Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay. You will see a Halloween-Mardi Gras-esque procession marching down the halls.
"Today is Purim. Purim is one of the happiest days of the year," Mark Shapiro, the CEO of the Harry and Rose Samson Family JCC, said.
Purim is one of the most colorful Jewish holidays. At the Whitefish Bay JCC, it's marked by a gregarious parade with everyone from 4-year-olds to 60-year-olds dressed in costume.
"It's the chance to have one of our favorite holidays, which is Purim, which commemorates the story of the good guys and the bad guys," Shapiro said.
The holiday marks Jews saved from the persecution of a Persian King around 400 B.C.E.
People wear costumes for multiple purposes, "Often in the story of Purim, there were people who dressed up to hide the fact that they were Jews, and then to be able to come out further in the story to help the Jews overcome the persecution that was happening," Shapiro said.
However, he added that it also helps get younger members of the Jewish community engaged with the story and tradition.
"It's also a chance, quite frankly, to tell the story with children. And like many religions, it's about passing it on from generation to generation. When you get to dress up in costume and eat cookies, it tends to be a really fun to story to be able to pass on," he said.
Shapiro added that this celebration, all over the world, and in Whitefish Bay has a more critical message.
"Of the hundreds of kids you just saw in our parade, some of them are Jewish (and) some of them aren't."
While it's important we recognize our differences, it's also crucial we celebrate the dozens of things we have in common.
Shapiro said it's okay if you missed this year's celebrations. There is always next year.
"And then come join us at 10 in the morning next year for Purim. We'll have hamantaschen. (A traditional Jewish cookie eaten on Purim.) We can welcome everyone to be apart of it."