Posts Tagged ‘Purim’

Purim: Jewish Halloween

March 5, 2012

When I was a kid, Purim was a holiday not to be missed.

The megillah reading at Temple Israel in Great Neck was a spectacle.  The synagogue was raucous, for a change. The kids were happy to be invited to make as much noise as we could to blot out Haman’s name.  Rabbi Waxman wielded a grogger so large it could have crushed that villan.  We got to stay up late, no matter if it was a school night, and eat Hamantaschen and candy until our stomachs ached.

This was the 1980s, long before the Disney princess marketing explosion, so we little girls made our own costumes in honor of Queen Esther.  Why would you want to be anyone else?  Of course my brother was more partial to the male roles…  My mom made us crowns out of cereal boxes covered in aluminum foil and beards out of poster board and cotton balls and, for that night, we were Jewish royalty.

Then came the Purim Carnival at the Hebrew High School which was housed in its own building known as The Youth House.  The teens put on a great party that day.  As a young child, I remember I always wanted to play whatever game could win me a live goldfish to carry home in a plastic bag.  As a teen, I remember the fun-filled frenzy of working the balloon shaving station or the room where people traded paper tickets with drawings of hotdogs and hamantaschen in for food.

While the details of these memories are fuzzy now, the spirit of the holiday is still strong.  As I sit in my house embraced by the smell of fresh Hamantaschen, looking through photos of my new family – who never miss an opportunity to play dress up – I look forward to this week, and to the day when Cora will look forward to this holiday we used to call Jewish Halloween.


Hamantaschen for Haiti

February 28, 2010

This past week, OWUJews joined together to bake Purim treats and teach our classmates and colleagues about the holiday and its attendant traditions.  One of those traditions is doing community service.   For our part, we held Hamantaschen for Haiti: A Bake Sale.

Helping out and having fun.

LOTS of hands making LOTS of Hamantaschen!

Helping one another while helping others.

Wednesday night, half a dozen folks gathered in one of the commercial kitchens on campus.  Special thanks go out to Gene Castelli and food service for giving us space and putting up with us for a 2 1/s hour marathon baking session!  We rolled out dough, cut-out circles, scooped out jam, and folded our circles into triangles to form Hamantaschen.  These traditional cookies are meant to resemble he hat worn by Haman, the villian in the Book of Esther which Jews read on Purim, but which literally translates to “Haman’s pockets.”  In Israel Hamantaschen are known as Haman’s ear.  Either way, we’re eating our enemy, at least metaphorically, for whatever that means.  We made around 200 though it was kind of hard to count, and a few were lost to the taste testers…

Friday, we hosted the bake sale from noon-1pm in HamWil Student Center.  We
sold nearly 100 cookies before the event started through online pre-orders.  A few
of those orders were from Jewish faculty and staff whom, I’d like to believe, we provided a service in helping them celebrate the holiday.  By 1pm, we had sold out.  By all accounts, the sale was a success.  After covering our costs, we made
$176 to send to the American Jewish World Service for their efforts in Haiti.

The final element of our Purim festivities was the staging of a Purim Shpiel (or skit).  Using a script I borrowed and edited from The Little Minyan, we told the story of the brave Queen with a few pop culture references woven through to maintain our audience’s attention.  While it was a little tough to recruit actors, we managed to pull together a motley cast of characters to perform for a full house during the lunchtime rush in HamWil.

A hearty Yasher Koach to all involved in what I’m sure is the beginning of a new OWUJew tradition.

Modern Day Esthers, Revisited

February 23, 2010

Last year, I posted an email I sent to OWU Hillel encouraging discussion of modern day Esthers.  Who are the women standing up to injustices in our world today?  Who are the women risking their reputations and even their lives to right the wrongs?  Preparing to write about Purim this year, I typed “Modern Day Esther” into my Google search bar.  Before you read on, try it.


Jan Lievens, The Feast of Esther, circa 1625–26, oil on canvas, 53 x 65 in., North Carolina Museum of Art

Surprised by what you found?  I was.  Somehow, I completely missed the Sarah Palin-Esther connection.  Beauty queen turned relgiously-motivated political leader.  Enough said, right?  I guess I never did this search last year since all the links are pretty much old news…

K. Bonami

The New York Times wrote about the connection shortly after Palin hit the national scene.  Apparently, after taking office as Governor of Alaska, Palin consulted her childhood pastor for advice.  “’She asked for a biblical example of people who were great leaders and what was the secret of their leadership,’ Mr. Riley said.”   The Times reported that Riley recommended she consult the story of Queen Esther.  As the picture above suggests, she took his advice.  Though some might argue the causes she champions.

So, before I go off on a political rant that would not necessarily become my role as Chaplain, I’ll let you all consider who might challenge Palin in the Battle of the Esthers?  Who are the Modern Day Esthers that inspire you?  Post your nominations as comments and let the Purim carnival games begin!

Celebrating Modern Day Esthers

March 6, 2009

Hello Everyone,

While we will not be together for Purim which falls on March 10th this year, I want to wish you all a Hag Sameach (Happy Holiday) and give you something to think about and, perhaps, bring home to your families.

While most of us fondly, and easily, recall Purim costume parties and carnivals, we may not be as familiar with the fast that leads up to the fun.  Ta’anit Esther, or The Fast of Esther, is sometimes referred to as The Jewish Day for Justice because the story of Esther inspires us “to be mindful of what we must do and empower ourselves to make change in the world.”

Before we head off to Megillah readings and feasts of Hamantaschen, I hope we might take a moment to exchange some e-thoughts on Modern Day Esthers, “Women who speak out because they know it is the right thing to do; who identify suffering and bring it to the public eye; who commit to awareness and education.”  Folks like, playright Eve Ensler, EcoFeminist Vandana Shiva, Washington, D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, and Oprah.

Please “Reply All” with your honorarium (a paragraph and photo or a link to an article) of sheroes who are making a difference in the world today – at OWU, across the United States, and around the world.

Shavuah Tov,