JDC Field Blog

Here’s How JDC and Jewish Communities Celebrate Purim Across the World

From February 28 to March 1, vibrant festivals and events will be held globally to commemorate Purim, the holiday that recounts the heroic efforts of Mordecai and Esther, the twosome who foiled Haman’s evil plan to kill the Jews in the ancient Persian Empire.

From Europe to India to the former Soviet Union, JDC — in partnership with these region’s Jewish communities — has many exciting activities planned, all of which would not be complete without joyous feasts filled with delicious hamentaschen (traditional triangular holiday cookies representing the shape of Haman’s hat), groggers (noisemakers used to drown out Haman’s name when reading the Book of Esther), and satirical Purim spiels, humorous skits that have been a feature of the holiday for generations.

Latvia’s JCC Riga is planning not one, but three celebrations including one for 170 costumed adults, with the best costume winner being awarded a prize from Riga Jewish Community President, with live music, games, and a Purim spiel. A party for 25 preschoolers includes a bubble show and a performance by an Israeli singer, while a circus-themed party for 80 older children will include a performance and dancing. Both children-focused programs will give mishloah manot (gift baskets) to those present.

In Estonia, the JCC Tallinn is planning two celebrations, with one being for 50 students and young adults that has a “Back to the USSR” theme. The evening will kick off with a Havdalah ceremony, and then participants will take part in a game highlighting the history of Purim. The other celebration, created for young families with preschoolers, will start by presenting each child with a passport with their picture on it that will play a key role in their Purim quest; each child will receive a gift after completing the activity.  A crowd favorite during the party will surely be a paper show that uses special cannons to spray brightly colored confetti into the audience.

Hungary’s Balint JCC will host a family Purim activity including arts and crafts workshops and a concert, both of which will take place in “Mordecai’s Game Cave,” as well as a Purim themed lecture presented by Gábor Balázs, an acclaimed Hungarian sprint canoer, supported in partnership by the JCC and JDC’s Mozaik Hub, a platform providing professional support, learning opportunities, and financial support for Jewish community NGOs and initiatives in Hungary. A Shalom Club Purim party for Holocaust survivors including face painting, as well as dancing and exercise classes in costumes, are also scheduled.

In Poland — where JDC helped rebuild Jewish life after WWI, the Holocaust, and the fall of communism  — the Jewish Community of Warsaw and the JDC-founded and run JCC Warszawa, as well as the Hillel Warszawa and the Jewish Historical Institute, will together host a Purim extravaganza for 300 Jews including dancing, costumes, and music. The theme of the festival is “Na opak,” roughly translated to “upside down,” and refers to the core idea of Purim: turning something that could have been a terrible tragedy into a celebratory holiday.

Additionally, this year’s annual charity fair at the JCC Warsawa, will enable craft sellers to donate nearly a quarter of their overall profits to help the family of Michał Pałkowski from Legenica. Michał was born with Down syndrome, suffers from a congenital heart defect, and needs to attend expensive physiotherapy and speech therapy classes. A Purim program, specifically for children, including a video made by a theatre improvisation group, and a party with a costume contest and arts and crafts activities are also planned.

Traveling to Djerba, Tunisia, the girls’ schools Torah VeHinouch and Kanfe Yona are organizing a Purim carnival, a Purim spiel performed by teachers, and costume competitions. A Megillah reading for the elderly at the Maison du Bel Age home in Casablanca, Morocco, is also being held, in addition to costume competitions at the Neve Shalom and Narcisse Leven primary schools. Plus, a Purim casino night is planned at JCC Casablanca.

In India, youth volunteers and JDC Entwine volunteers will organize and deliver mishloah manot to vulnerable members of the community, including homebound elderly, a week prior to Purim. Also planned in the region is a Purim party, full of festive food and games.

Throughout the former Soviet Union, many Purim happenings are scheduled: creative art workshops, concerts, community festivals, hamentaschen baking, delicious meals shared by Jewish community members, stories shared about the history and traditions around the holidays, and costume-making. Additionally, there are Purim volunteer activities occurring in the region. For example, in Kishinev, Moldova, the “Origins of Mercy” project will enable volunteers to travel to meet elderly community members for a Purim Shabbat ceremony, where they will light candles together while sharing the story of Purim, make masks for the holiday in an arts and crafts workshop, and organize mishloah manot.

Purim is one of the most lively and fun Jewish holidays and its core theme of resilience in the face of obstacles, exemplified by Esther and Mordecai, is still felt deeply by Jews around the globe.

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