A UNIQUE SPIN
It wasn’t quite two-by-two as the book of Genesis recounts, but the Young Adult Division of the Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara was able to show its animal side Saturday afternoon.
In what was a unique way to celebrate the holiday Purim, which commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire as recorded in the biblical book of Esther, some 35 local Jewish young adults dressed in animal costumes under the theme of Noah’s Ark during an afternoon trip on the Land Shark.
Ike Chafkin, who is on the planning committee of the Young Adult Division for the federation, told the News-Press the event is focused on young professionals between the ages of 22 and 35. It serves as a way to bring like-minded people together to explore their faith no matter their background.
“Santa Barbara isn’t a huge Jewish community,” he explained. “Well, it’s really a Jewish community on the rise and there’s still a lot of people exploring their Jewish identity.”
Mr. Chafkin grew up outside of Boston, which he described as a very “Jewish-heavy city” compared to Santa Barbara.
“(Santa Barbara) is a real transient city and we want people to understand that there is a Jewish community here and we want to foster that,” he said.
“You don’t just want to find your Jewish connection through Bubbe and Zayde, your grandmother and grandfather,” Mr. Chafkin added. “We’re a Jewish community of young adults, people that are exploring their Judaism.”
Some dressed more creatively than others. Mr. Chafkin was wearing an adult onesie with a Narwhal horn – “It’s always good to party in your pajamas,” he said. Others wore shark costumes, hats with chipmunks on them or bird masks.
“Everybody’s kind of looking for that one thing that makes their city special and I think this is really it,” Mr. Chafkin said. “I’ve heard of things going on in bigger cities that are big Jewish meet-ups that are basically just happy hours – we like to make it different. Santa Barbara is different. There’s no reason we should be doing what L.A. does, or what New York does or what Chicago does or whatever big city you are.”
Carly Newman, co-chair of the Young Adult Division, was dressed as a pig.
“Kosher,” she said with a laugh.
Ms. Newman said she was not raised Jewish, but her father was. She uses events like Saturday as a learning experience. The group tries to tailor to the young adults and even created a drinking game on Esther’s legacy.
“It’s just kind of taking what might be a boring old story and making it fun for people,” she said.
Participants boarded the boat with wheels designed for both land- and sea-cruising and rode through the downtown area before heading to the waterfront. From there the boat splashes into the Santa Barbara harbor and cruises along the coastline.
Stephanie Barlev, who was dressed as a dinosaur, recently moved to Santa Barbara from Westlake Village.
“It’s really cool because I grew up in an area that was very Jewish and then I came here and it’s not quite as Jewish, so when I met people that had similar backgrounds it’s kind of fun,” she said. “We’re all the same age, we’re all young professionals too, so it’s a nice community to have.”
Like Ms. Newman, Dana Hoffenberg was not raised Jewish but as a young adult she decided to explore the religion.
“It’s fun to celebrate,” Ms. Hoffenberg said. “It’s an easy holiday to get together and just have a good time.”
Ms. Hoffenberg started as a member of the federation, then served as co-chair for a time. She now sits on the board.
“We’re trying to create a fun environment for young Jews to come together and build community,” she said. “It’s how I’ve met some of my best friends here.”