Congregation Olam Tikvah can turn a musical into a Purim story before you can say ‘Achashverosh’

Rabbi Viki Bedo and Jonah Fisher perform “You’re the One That I Want” from “Grease.”

The Purim shpiel gave way to the Purim video this year at Congregation Olam Tikvah in Fairfax. Twenty-six members answered the call to make a 30-second video telling a piece of the Purim story on the theme “Purim on Broadway.” That gave congregants the prompt to write new lyrics to favorite Broadway shows, said Rabbi David Kalender.

“It’s one of those things that stretches across the generations,” Kalender said.

Olam Tikvah doesn’t like to repeat itself and is always looking for a new angle to tradition. On pandemic high holidays, for example, the Conservative synagogue asked congregants to send in videos of themselves blowing a shofar.

“Every year we pick a different theme for Purim, which helps people think about the holiday in new ways and be a little bit playful with it,” Kalender said. “For people who struggle with picking a good costume, having a theme makes it easier to figure that out.”

At Olam Tikvah, members have the “honor and responsibility” of leading the synagogue, he said. Kalender hoped people would get a smile out of the video project and get them thinking about the Purim story in advance of the holiday.

On the eve of Purim, videos played between chapters during the megillah reading.
Congregant Steve Tepp submitted a video in which he sang a Purim version of “Modern Major General” from Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance.” Tepp, said he came up with a “clever” set of lyrics in about an hour:

In Shushan long ago, there was a queen and her name was Vashti
She didn’t come when her king called, so Achashverosh was quite peeved
He sent out word both far and wide for candidates to replace her
And of all them, the prettiest, you guessed it —
Her name was Esther

“Not to pump myself up, but I was happy with it,” said Tepp, a Vienna resident. “And so I figured if I got this far I might as well go ahead with it.”

Tepp, a copyright lawyer, said he chose the song because it didn’t require a lot of singing talent, and the meter and rhyme scheme allowed him to fit Purim-related lyrics into it.

While he was happy with his own performance, Tepp was excited to see other’s talents and “clever lines,” saying that there were piano players and high-quality singers that took part in the project.

One couple dressed up as Danny and Sandy from “Grease” and sang a Purim version of “You’re the One That I Want.” Another family, performed “Tomorrow” from “Annie”: ”Tell him that I’m Jewish tomorrow / He will know.”

Eliot Goldberg performed “I’ve Got a Little List,” from Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Mikado,” as Haman reviewing the names of those he’s marked for execution, including Mordechai, of course, but also “Those who show no compliance by singing the wrong Adon Olam tune.”

“It’s great that we all got to contribute in our own ways,” Tepp said. “And for the kids, I think it’s great for them to see the adults having fun being Jewish.”

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