JOFA: What made you decide to be Ms. Adar?
Harry Brown: Most of my friends and family will tell you I have a pretty sarcastic and strange sense of humor. I’m always thinking of my next shtick. This whole idea came to me pretty quickly, I was looking for something cheap and easy to do for Purim. Of course I’ve been bothered by the idea that any publication would block out or obscure women or girls, so this came to me quickly. I don’t consider myself a feminist, but I love, cherish and protect my wife and daughters as any man should do.
Plain and simple, this was the done in the purest sense of Purim shtick and satire. There was never any intention to go viral, this was for my friends to see. Someone took a picture and it went from there.
JOFA: Was your family on board?
HB: I told my wife the idea to see her reaction, and she was a little reluctant, because it was so “edgy.” But she could also tell how serious I was once I made up my mind. After being married to me for 20 years, she could see I was going to do it anyway. My 9th grade daughter thinks most things I do are crazy this was no different.
Our community in Houston was devastated last year in Hurricane Harvey, and we are still years away from a complete recovery. I had also considered the costume of a highway Flood Gauge sign, but I didn’t have yellow pants or shirt. So, making a paper plate into a mask was the easy choice.
JOFA: Can you share some examples of past costumes?
HB: I can’t remember that many, but in the past my wife and I just went to shul wearing signs that said “I’m a Mac” and “I’m a PC.” Several years ago, Purim fell during the Girl Scout Cookie Sale. I went to shul that year wearing my daughter’s sash and a tan skirt, and actually took orders for her dressed as a girl scout. When I was in Middle School, the day school lunch program received government subsidized turkey roll. At the time, my mother ran the kitchen and lunch program, and at least 3 meals a week were some kind of turkey meal. Naturally, that year I dressed as a Kosher Turkey Roll.
JOFA: Did you expect this to go viral?
HB: No, of course not. I’ve been stunned at how quickly things happened. I was just playing on my phone after the Purim Carnival ended, and my wife kept coming in to tell me how many likes I had, and how many shares and comments. I really thought she was kidding until I started getting messages from friends all over the country. Some of my friends have asked me how I could profit from this. If I had a dollar for every like, share, and comment, we could elevate and repair our home and send our older daughter to college. That’s how unbelievable this has all been.
JOFA: How have people been reacting?
HB: The reactions have been overwhelmingly positive. People still come up to me, sometimes bringing their friends over to meet me. So many people, men and women, have told me it was their favorite costume ever. Several people have told me the picture was voted best costume on their own family chats, and around the world people have reacted the same way. Someone I don’t know even said if I was ever in Beit Shemesh, they would have a parade for me. Incredible.
JOFA: What do you hope people will take away from your costume?
For me, this was the most satisfying and rewarding part of the whole thing. Several people “got” the costume right away, but so many others asked me to explain it. As a former teacher, there is nothing better than capitalizing on a “teachable moment.” I had people talking, and telling their own friends about it. Raising awareness for an issue like has been totally worth it. One high school boy came up to me the next day to ask about the costume, and then told me his friends had all been trying to guess what it meant. He was excited that he had been right, and couldn’t wait to tell them. Anything issue that generates so much excitement with high school kids is fantastic.
At home, my lesson to my daughters took a different turn. It was an incredible opportunity to teach them how something can accidentally become viral. We warn them all the time to be careful with what they post online for others to see. When it actually happens, it is a different feeling. Hopefully it is a lesson they will remember in the future.
JOFA: Anything else that you would like to share?
HB: I think this is little silly, but the picture was criticized by some that the wrong year was on the sign I was holding. In my defense, I put the sign together in about two minutes. I quickly looked over my shoulder to the local Jewish Calendar we have hanging on the wall, and it actually has a misprint, showing 5777 instead of 5778. So, yes there was a mistake, but it was an honest one.
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