The fluffy bagel suit from New York weighed a ton, I thought it would do me, but, as we approached Passover I realised that I would have to diversify. To see a grown man in a fluffy bagel suit once is amusing, to see him wear the same costume repeatedly, meh not so great.

Eventually I found a matzo suit, made from thick cardboard and a tessellated foam coating. Getting through the synagogue door proved to be problematic though, so I stood at the back and left early. In time I had to rearrange my apartment to accommodate the growing collection; the bagel, matzo, and hamentashen, were in the hallway.

The Magen David, and the twenty-two alefbet in the living room and gefilte fish which looked less like an Ashkenazy appetizer and more like an oversized eraser, hung above my bed. Pleasant evenings were spent researching costumes online, hand rinsing giant feet, oversized gloves and a variety of coloured tights. I enjoyed this new life; all of the schvitzing beneath the costumes meant I’d dropped a few kilos, I was more confident, happy even. And my standing in the Jewish community was considerable.

What had begun three years ago when I moved cities, but was too shy to be part of a new congregation in person, had now grown into a thriving business, where synagogues throughout Melbourne booked me to turn up for high days, holy days and many happy days. I’d grown accustomed to being privy to private conversations at many events I had attended, as people often forgot that there was a person under the costume. And tonight is no exception. On this the forth night of Channuakh, I hear the rebetzen say in hushed tones to that she can tell how much a woman loves her family by the way she cooks her brisket and that she knew a woman who used frozen carrots in their brisket sauce, the women gathered around her tut tut and their mouths curl into contemptuous disbelief.

As the night comes to a close I head out to one of the rooms at the back of the shul to get changed out of my magnificent menorah suit. I don’t see the floor because I can’t look down and I slip on a jelly donut. How it got there doesn’t really matter. Suffice to say that for the first time in my life, I do the splits, to the sound of an almighty rip and a squelch of foam.

I am attempting to rip away the boogie eyes, cherry red lips and a bulbous black sponge of a nose, gasping now for air, when I hear a noise. I peer between the fourth and sixth candle which lay at awkward angles and flash intermittently. A boy around seven or eight runs into the room chasing a spinning dreidel. He takes one look at me, shouts like he is injured, retreats wailing and drops a handful dreidels as he goes. I see myself as he does, a fifty-something year old man, who has not had a conversation with anyone for years, incandescent with anguish in a battered and probably irreparable, costly menorah suit. A driedle skitters across the floor, twirling to a standstill in my face, which is now looming out from a rupture of prolapsed foam. For a moment the words on the dreidel spin as if they are meant just for me.

My back spasms as I emerge from the costume, I face the crowd of the curious and concerned congregants.
‘Oy!’ I sob.
‘Vey!’ I laugh.
‘Nes Gadol Hayah Sham. A great miracle happened here.’

First delivered at Melbourne Jewish Book Week open mic event
Article by Author/s
Justine Sless
Justine Sless is a writer and comedian with an MA by research in creative writing from La Trobe University - her research area is gender and comedy. Justine is cohost of @slesstoharsel, an irreverent take on books and writing.

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