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Mardi Gras in New Orleans


Rabbi David Sperling

Shevat 2, 5774
Can a Jew participate in Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans? Obviously, while keeping kosher and avoiding immodesty.
Shalom, Thank you for your question. I will be quite honest in my answer to you – I am not very familiar with the Mardi Gras (or perhaps it is more correct to say "I am very unfamiliar…"). So, I went online and did an internet search of "Mardi Gras in New Orleans". Unfortunately my internet filter came up and blocked nearly all the search results (even the Wikipedia entry). This leads me to suspect that "avoiding immodesty" at the Mardi Gras may be harder than you think! In general Mardi Gras celebrations were connected with the Christian religious calendar. If the celebrations today are still connected to the Christian festivals then it would be forbidden for a Jew to participate in them. Even if they are now devoid of any religious meaning, partaking in non-Jewish alcoholic parties is problematic halachically, as well as ill-advised morally. And also there are the problems of modesty you yourself mention in your question. In general, I think it would be safe to say that Mardi Gras are not favored by Judaism – in fact the Talmud refers to pagan festivals that sound very similar to today's Mardi Gras, which are forbidden for Jews to participate in (see tractate Avodah Zara chapter 1, mishna 3). May you be blessed to come to Jerusalem to celebrate the holy festivals with all of Am Yisrael ! Blessings.
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