Crowning Lena Dunham
03/01/2013 - 00:01
Angela Himsel
Lena Dunham. Photo by Matthew Carasella/The Jewish Museum
Lena Dunham. Photo by Matthew Carasella/The Jewish Museum

Esther as Eloise?  Makes sense when Lena Dunham channels the parentless and precocious Eloise - “I am Lena and I am six” -- for a modern retelling of the Purim spiel.

At The Jewish Museum’s annual masked Purim Ball, filmmaker and actress Lena Dunham of HBO’s award-winning “Girls” proved that she understands girls: 21st century Manhattan girls and 6th century BCE Jewish Persian girls.

Dunham introduced Purim with, “Is it just me or are Jews always being delivered?”  Then, with her trademark comedic one-liners, she summarized the characters and brought the story up to date.  Queen Vashti, who refused to appear at King Ahasuerus’ court when summoned, “believed that all women should make choices for themselves, like when to wake up and who to invite to a party.” 

Looking for a replacement for Vashti, the king chooses Esther. “She was an orphan, like Pippi Longstocking,” who is the ward of Mordechai, a religious Jew who has “two kinds of plates, but no kinds of lobster.”  Esther doesn’t reveal that she’s Jewish, because “You shouldn’t talk about religion at a party.”  Enter Haman, who wants to kill all of the Jews. 

“I believe there’s a Haman and a Mordechai inside all of us,” Dunham said.   

A record of over 930 festively clad guests from the worlds of art, fashion, entertainment and philanthropy attended the gala at the historic Park Avenue Armory on February 27th. The evening honored celebrated pop artist James Rosenquist, whose painting F-111 debuted at the Jewish Museum in 1965, and Robert H. Benmosche, president and CEO of AIG.  Accepting his award, Benmosche talked about the need to be creative in solving problems, and to learn from those who came before.  Rosenquist’s message was a simple, ‘Hooray for Queen Esther and hooray for contemporary art!”  

Dunham’s take on museums?  They are “like my Sunday school. If it were up to me, I’d stay in the gift shop.”


Angela Himsel is a freelance writer in New York City.

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