Where’s Waldo? Apparently at Congregation B’nai Tikvah in North Brunswick, where, on the evening of Purim, about 75 people wearing the red and white striped shirt and black-rimmed glasses of the popular hero of children’s puzzle books showed up for the megilla reading. More Waldos came the next morning, Feb. 28, for the second reading of the Scroll of Esther.
The gathering set the world record for the number of Waldos gathered in a synagogue — if only by default. Synagogue youth chair Dot Cohen admitted that no such listing exists in the Guinness World Records or anywhere else, but the idea was never just about setting records.
Cohen said she contacted Rutgers, where 1,052 students last April set the official Waldo record, to get the costumes. They were sold to congregants as a fund-raiser with the money donated to tzedaka.
“My idea was really to encourage adults to stand in solidarity at Purim,” Cohen said. “As Jews we’re supposed to join in the celebration, but adults sometimes feel inhibited. By wearing the same uniform costume, adults felt safe. We have adults here who have never participated in a megilla reading, and if we are going to continue to exist as Jews, we first have to have a Jewish community.”
Not to mention that the whimsical Waldo character, who turns up in unexpected places throughout the world, seems symbolic of the Jewish experience, she added.
Rabbi Robert Wolkoff, who placed his Waldo specs over his reading glasses for the megilla reading, said the Waldo theme “really motivated people to come together as a congregation” and is in line with making “the beit knesset a place where people get together to live a Jewish life.”
The synagogue’s United Synagogue Youth chapter sold boxes of macaroni and cheese to be used as groggers during the service. The money collected was donated to 100 different charities supported by USY, said Jesse Nagelberg, its Israel awareness committee vice president. Afterward, the boxes were collected and donated to a local food bank.
Eve Cukor, 10, of East Brunswick donned her Waldo duds “because I thought it would be really cool to be in the record book.”
A group of friends she was with all agreed that the best part of the evening was becoming part of history, but Daria Valen, 10, of Kendall Park added, “It was also nice to be all dressed alike.”