By Melissa Berman
Family Engagement Associate
Macks Center for Jewish Education
Shalom Baltimore! As we continue to trudge through this cold, wet, snowy, icy winter, our only option is to keep moving ahead and look forward to better days to come. With Purim just around the corner there is certainly a lot to look forward to.
The story of Purim reads a bit like a fairy tale. There was a wicked man named Haman, whose job was to advise a somewhat absentminded King Ahashverosh, king of Persia. The king was taken with a Jewish woman named Esther and made her his queen. All was well for a time, until Esther’s Uncle Mordechi refused to bow to Haman, as Jews only bow down to G-d. Haman was so infuriated that he advised the king to have all the Jews killed. Ahashverosh agreed, unaware of the fact that his beautiful Queen Esther was, in fact, Jewish. In an act of heroism Esther went to her husband with the truth. The king ordered the Jews to be spared, and Haman to be hung.
Purim is unlike many of our other Jewish holidays. It’s a celebration full of costumes, laughter, carnivals, puppet shows and mishloach manot (gifts and treats delivered to friends). As the Megillat Esther, the Book of Esther, is read in synagogue, children and grownups alike are encouraged to make as much noise as possible every time Haman’s name is read. Groggers, feet stamping and booing are all part of the excitement!
As a child I can remember looking forward to Purim each year. Anxiously awaiting the annual carnival at my school and always wondering what outlandish costume our Rabbi and teachers would come up with. I can still picture my fourth grade Hebrew teacher Mr. Pinker dressed as a caveman — club and all! Having grown up in the 70s, a very popular booth at the carnival was Brady Bunch trivia, which I have to admit I was quite good at, having watched reruns of that show almost daily!
So much has changed in the world since I was a child. The world moves much faster for my own children, but how we celebrate Purim from generation to generation has stayed pretty much the same. My kids geared up for Purim weeks ahead of time! They planned costumes, participated in plays at their preschool and begged to make hamantashen (triangular cookies that represent the triangular hat Haman supposedly wore). They still anticipated seeing the outlandish costume our Rabbi would show up in and how different their teacher looked all dressed up on Purim!
My daughter Sara with her cousin DJ as Esther and Haman
One of the things that has changed for our young families preparing for Purim is the resources available to them. Recipes, costume ideas, Megilla readings and local carnivals can all be found with just a few clicks. Kveller Baltimore has a listing of all the local happenings at kveller.com. Additionally, PJ Library’s website pjlibrary.org has a rich offering of holiday information and activities and of course a complete listing of their Purim books and music.
Be sure to check out PJ’s extra book opportunity for Purim as well. The Purim Superhero by Elizabeth Kushner. The book features a Jewish family with two dads. It tells the story of a boy trying to decide which character to be for his school’s Purim parade. He struggles as to whether to dress like the other children or follow his heart.
Chag Sameach, Happy Purim Baltimore, and Enjoy!