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The festival of Purim: stories and traditions

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Sloane Warner, Co-Marketing Manager

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Many people attend festive Purim carnivals around this time of year.  Purim, a holiday that celebrates the defeat of a plot to kill the Jewish people, began on March 11 and ended on March 12 this year.  The Purim story, read from the Megillat Esther, tells the story of the king of Shushan, King Achashverosh, and his new wife, Esther.  After his previous wife, Vashti, refuses to come to his party, he banishes her from the kingdom.  He then finds a new wife, Esther, who is secretly Jewish.  Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, saves the king’s life and is praised.  The king’s advisor, Haman, despises Mordecai because Mordecai refused to bow to him. Haman uses this as a reason to loathe the entire Jewish community, and he plots to kill all of the Jews in Shushan.  Haman casts a pur, or lot, and decides to hang all of the Jews in the kingdom on the 13 of Adar.  Esther discovers Haman’s plan, and after hosting a series of parties for Haman and the King, she reveals her identity as a Jew and tells the king of Haman’s plot to kill her people.  King Achashverosh then uses Haman’s own death plot against him and hangs Haman on the 13 of Adar.  

According to the Jewish Federation Calendar, there were at least 17 different Purim events within the Atlanta community in this year alone.  These events varied from Megillah readings to hamantashen baking parties. Many of these events were held at synagogues or the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta  (MJCCA).  Jewish days schools around Atlanta also celebrated the holiday by having their students participate in various activities.  At the Alfred and Adele Davis Academy, there was a dance party as well as a room of board games.  The carnival was hosted at Temple Emanu-El, in Sandy Springs.  A student from the Davis Academy, Alexa Warner, said that her favorite part of the day was dressing up for the holiday and getting to dance and celebrate with her friends.  

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While there are many organized events for people to attend on Purim, families may also have their own traditions for the holiday.  A sophomore at The Weber School, Sydney Rein, spoke about her family’s traditions. “We always bake hamentashen with another family, every year,” she said.  “The dough never turns out the same, and this year’s dough was the best yet.”  Sydney called her family’s tradition of baking hamentashen a “bonding experience.”

A tradition for Purim at Weber is the Purim Spiel.  The spiel is a video created by members of the junior class to explain the story of Purim in a humorous, relatable manner.  This year, the video was shown during Kehillah on Friday, March 17.  The video was written and compiled by Lilei Turiansky and Ira Livnat.  This year’s video was based on the popular ABC show “The Bachelor,” with King Achashverosh playing the role of the Bachelor.

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In Israel, it is traditional for people to dress up for the holiday.  Purim is equivalent to many other countries’ Halloween in terms of costumes and celebrations.  Morah Arotchas, a native Israeli as well as a Hebrew teacher at The Weber School, said that a big part of Purim in Israel is giving mishloach manot to others.  Mishloach manot are gifts that are given to close family members or friends during Purim.  They may contain food, toys, or drinks.  In Israeli schools, gifts are exchanged within classes, similar to the “Secret Santa” tradition in America.  During Purim, Israeli students do not have school for the duration of the 3-day holiday,so many attend street fairs, festivals, or synagogue to hear the reading of the Megillah.  A popular form of a festival in Israel is a “Purim Ron,” and it has many booths and stations with activities and foods for people to celebrate with.

What did you dress up as for Purim this year?

  • A hamantashen (67%, 2 Votes)
  • Queen Esther (33%, 1 Votes)
  • King Achashverosh (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Haman (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 3

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While Purim is one of the lesser-known Jewish holidays, it is still celebrated around the world, and within our community with as much joy and fervor as any other holiday.

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