Spiderman, Batman are in fashion this Purim [pg. 6]

Disney princesses, Spiderman and Batman are the most popular costumes for Purim this year, according to a poll conducted by Modan, one of Israel's main manufacturers of Purim costumes. According to the survey, which questioned 500 Jewish Israeli families, 24.2 percent of parents said their children would dress up as an animal, 15% said a prince or princess and 13.6% said a comic-book character. Queen Esther and Mordecai did not even make it into the top 10. "We had no real requests for Jewish characters this year," said Modan marketing manager Mano Levi. "Instead, we created a bride costume or a Cinderella costume that could double as Queen Esther." Tamar El-Or, an anthropologist at Hebrew University, said that the trend to dress up as characters from pop culture was not really something new. "When I was a child, cowboys and Indians were popular," noted El-Or. "It is very natural that children want to be something not related to the Purim story itself. This does not mean that they are not familiar with the traditional side of the festival. "Even in religious communities in Israel," she said, "you might find more Queen Esthers than in secular Israel, but there are still other costumes." "These findings do not bother me," commented Maya Leibovitch, rabbi at Mevaseret Zion's Progressive Synagogue. "Masquerading is only one side of Purim. The real mitzva is the social side, such as sending gift packages. I am not worried about the children; most of them know the story of Purim, as they learn it in school. It is an issue of fashion moving in waves." Rabbi Aaron Dovid Poston from Aish Hatorah said, "It is not really important what one dresses up as on Purim, the idea is to hide behind the costume. Secular children are influenced by what they see on TV, and if you can get a costume like that then it is cool." Leibovitch added that Megilat Esther was such an excellent literary text that it could be translated into today's world without too much of a problem. "Forget that it took place in ancient Persia," she said. "The characters from the story repeat themselves in history over and over again." Giving the Purim story a bit of an update is exactly what Dudu Shamay did when he created the floats for this year's annual Adloyada Purim parade in Holon. In his interpretation of the story, evil Haman has become Osama bin Laden, Mordecai has become US President George W. Bush and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is the modern-day Queen Esther. "The Adloyada is for the children," said Shamay, a cartoonist for Ma'ariv. "The heroes of today's children are the people they can see on TV, not Queen Esther or the others from the megila. The children need something they can relate to." One Jerusalem storeowner said that she'd had a few requests for costumes of Mordecai but none for Queen Esther. "Any princess costume could be considered Queen Esther, but so far no one has specifically asked for a Queen Esther costume," she said. Dragon Ball and animal costumes had been the best-sellers so far, she said before going to help a teenage girl find what she would need to dress up as the Statue of Liberty. The survey, which was published last week, noted that 90% of children under the age of 18 were planning to dress up this year, with parents spending upwards of NIS 98 on costumes. Only 8.8% of parents planned to create their children's Purim costumes, with most preferring to buy ready-made ones and only 5.7% using what they already had at home. "In that sense we have lost a lot," said Leibovitch. "When I was a child we used to make all our own costumes, not buy them. There would be a competition for the best design and we got very creative. Purim today has become so commercialized with parents spending a lot of money on costumes."