HE Jewish Museum’s 20th annual Purim Ball – which defines Purim with all its merrymaking, dreidel waving, and wine drinking as the frat party of Judaism – we hear a word from Vashti, the first woman scorned. Setting aside the Megillah of Esther, comedy writer Patricia Marx (formerly of Saturday Night Live) reads from her Book of Vashti.
First the king hosts a party, which he assures Vashti is "just a dreary work thing, my pet, on how to make the Fertile Crescent more fertile." He invites his queen to come in her business attire, that is without a stitch.
Vashti is in one of her don’t-appear-naked-
in-front-of-hundreds-of-strangers moods, and trots off to the Dead Sea for a salt-wrap and sand massage with her measly alimony.
Marx, a teacher of comedy writing at New York University and author of How To Regain Your Viginity, goes on in that vein. Whenever she mentions the evil Haman, she commands her black-tie audience, "Drinks down, groggers up!"
Almost all 550 dutifully twirl their groggers, including Brooklyn Museum director Arnold Lehman, Nancy and Morris Offit, Amy and Howard Rubenstein, Florence and Dr. Philip Felig, Barbara and Robert Goodkind, and Marc Chagall’s granddaughter Bella Meyer. Their joy and merriment brought in a total of $1.3 million for the museum.
At the end of Marx’s apocryphal tale, Vashti meets Mordechai at a Cirque de Soleil production of Hammurabi’s Code. They fall in love at the seventh intermission. Vashti converts and marries Morty and everyone’s content.
Actually Joan Rosenbaum – not Vashti – was guest of honor at the masked ball at the Waldorf-Astoria. Rosenbaum was recognized for her 25 years as director of the Jewish Museum.
Michael Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Center in Washington, said he learned how to run an arts institution more from Rosenbaum than anyone else in the world. Dr. Ismar Schorsch, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, called Rosenbaum "a master advocate of culture and art."
So there you have it – a serious note for Purim when Jews celebrate victory over Haman. Drinks down! Groggers up!