2013 Jewish Museum Purim Ball.(Stephanie Butnick)
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The Scroll’s Night at the Museum

Lena Dunham Purimspiels, James Rosenquist is honored

Adam Chandler
February 28, 2013
2013 Jewish Museum Purim Ball.(Stephanie Butnick)

Those seeking insight about the inner-workings of American Judaism might want to focus their gaze on the New York metropolitan area. Those concerned about the conventional purity of American Judaism may want to avert their eyes.

I’ve already written at length this week about the world of competitive hamantaschen eating and the controversy surrounding Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s choice of Purim costume, but perhaps the coup de grace was last night’s Purim Ball, put on by the Jewish Museum at the Park Avenue Armory, the ineffable combination of private jet hanger space and Upper East Side warehouse chic.

The event–lavish, earnest, fun, startling–was the subject of an excellent dispatch from our partner site Jewcy, which chronicled the Purimspiel as delivered by HBO star and dissertation fodder Lena Dunham in the voice of her six-year-old self.

“I suppose I’m Jewish, depending on which way you look at me. For instance, my mother is Jewish, and you are a Jew if your mother is a Jew—at least that’s what the Jews say,” Young Lena began. Her next line—”The Jews also say, ‘you’re too skinny, eat,’” got a hearty laugh from the crowd, who had just finished dining on short rib.

“The Jews don’t care who your dad is, unless he’s on the board of a major hospital,” Young Lena added, also to big laughs. (Tickets for the event, which this year honored artist James Rosenquist and AIG CEO Robert H. Benmosche, started at $1,250.)

Lena Dunham has fast become this generation’s icon of aspirations realized, marrying wit, confusion, and privilege in ways that all the tiny transistors that bore Mark Zuckerberg his massive fortune could never articulate. Or perhaps, the two are just poles, only interacting at the margins of their reaches, the way James Rosenquist and Robert Benmosche are both worthy of honor or in the way competitive eating has to do with Purim because there are hamantaschen involved. Young Lena has a Purim story, older Lena has a publicist to run interference.

It all seems a bit confusing. I used to surge with excitement at the prospect of buying a carton of confetti-filled egg shells and running wily-nily around my synagogue’s Purim carnival, smashing shells into friends and foes alike. Last night, there was filet mignon short rib, which may have just been the 30-year-old’s version of a dozen confetti eggs. I’m not sure what it had to do with Purim, but I had fun.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.