High school student gives Purim spiel a feminist spin


Elana, a senior at Barrington High School, wrote and directed the Moana Purim Spiel for Temple Habonim, in Barrington. Here, she shares details of that experience.


Writing and organizing the Purim spiel at Temple Habonim was an incredibly rewarding experience. I was inspired to write this year’s spiel by the work of Joseph Shansky, a longstanding member of Temple Habonim who passed away last December.

Before I started adapting the songs and writing the script, I read and reread Megillat Esther, sifting through the general plot and discovering subtler details, from which I drew inspiration for aspects of the spiel.

I examined all facets of Esther, weighing each one’s importance to the story and to the message I wanted to convey, as well as considering how I could handle sensitive topics such as harems and capital punishment in a play meant for a young audience.

One specific way I differentiated this Purim spiel was by making it a feminist work, highlighting the thoughts, emotions and actions of Esther and Vashti, the two main female characters.

Throughout the rehearsal process, I drew on the guidance of my mentor, David Perolman, Habonim’s educational director/songleader. I also learned from my internship at Barrington Community Theatre to assign roles based on a mixture of ability, fit, enthusiasm and commitment.

It was truly a community effort between the amazing cast, musical accompaniment, painted backgrounds, and technical contributions.

The Moana Purim Spiel took place Monday, March 9, at Temple Habonim in Barrington.