Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people of Persia from an antisemitic genocide that was scheduled to be perpetrated by an official of the Achaemenid Empire.
“This might sound depressing, but it’s actually one of the happiest holidays in Judaism!” Ayelet Kaminer ’25 said.
This year, along with Sophia Nachmanoff ’25, Kaminer helped organize a Purim Drag Extravaganza for the queer Jewish community on campus.
“Traditionally, the holiday and its celebrations lend themselves to drag. For centuries, people have celebrated Purim by cross dressing to celebrate the transformation of fate that took place in the story. Purim celebrations also pertain to performance, as Purim spiels—plays—have long been a crucial tenet of the holiday festivities,“ Kaminer said.
As a student who is both religious and queer, they are aware of the challenges that one faces when they try to find the intersection of the two, and wants to facilitate finding that for the Wellesley community. The intention of this event was to provide a safe, affirming, queer space for students who want to celebrate their joyous survival, which is what Purim is all about.
Denali Naylor ‘25, who performed at the event, found it an inclusive, safe and festive place to celebrate drag and wild gender expression.
“For my performance I just wanted to do something wild and fun. I knew that a simple lip sync act would not be enough, so I wanted to take the opportunity to try something new. I did a live painting/dance, painting both on a canvas and on my own body. It was so exhilarating and once I started I never wanted to stop. I was also very nervous, but the crowd reaction was electric,” Naylor said.
They added that they were happy to find a population of creative, crazy and queer people at Wellesley who are not afraid to express it, and appreciated being able to find a safe queer Jewish space.
“I think the Wellesley community was receptive to this event because right now is a time when queer joy is sorely needed. There’s an old rabbinic teaching – משנכנס אדר מרבין בשמחה – which means ‘when the month of Adar (when Purim occurs) begins, one increases rejoicing’. If there’s one thing I think young people—and especially young queer people—need, it’s rejoicing,” Kaminer said.
This was one of the most highly attended non-religious events Wellesley Jewish Life hosted this year, and was also a success because it allowed so many Jewish students at Wellesley to share the joy and practice of Purim with students of all faiths.
Another drag event will be held on the occasion of Passover that all students are welcome to attend on April 23rd.