Jewish students share Purim plans

Purim celebrates queen Esther saving the Jewish people from state-sanctioned murder.

Rabbi Baruch S. Kantor sits with students attending Chabad’s Hamantaschen bake on March 9. RABBI BARUCH S. KANTOR / COURTESY

Growing up, Rafael Friedlander celebrated Purim by going to services at Congregation Beth El in Montgomery County, Maryland, where congregation members would sing Purim-themed parodies of songs, interspersed with readings from the Megillah. 

This year, Friedlander, an architecture undeclared freshman, is celebrating on campus with events like baking Hamantaschen, a triangle-shaped cookie with a sweet filling, hosted by Chabad, an organization dedicated to promoting Jewish life on campus. 

Purim is a Jewish holiday that tells the story of Haman, the adviser to king Ahasuerus who planned to kill all the Jewish people in the Persian empire, and how queen Esther, the king’s Jewish wife, exposed his plot and saved the Jewish people, according to Chabad. 

Purim is traditionally celebrated by observing four mitzvot: donation to charities, feasting, sharing food with loved ones and hearing the story of Purim, known as the Megillah, read aloud, according to Chabad. Other traditions include dressing up in costume, booing or using noisemakers whenever Haman’s name is said to symbolize beating Haman’s spirit back into purgatory and praying. 

This year, Purim begins at sundown on March 16 and ends at sundown on March 17. Chabad is hosting a party with a Megillah reading, sushi chef and cocktails on March 16, and a bagel lunch with a Megillah reading at the Medical Education and Research Building on March 17, said Rabbi Baruch Kantor, the Chabad rabbi. 

Hillel, a student organization dedicated to connecting students with their Jewish heritage, is offering Hamantaschen baking on March 16. Meor, an organization that aims to create Jewish leaders, is hosting a cocktail-style costume party on March 16.  

The Megillah does not mention God, but his presence is implied by other characters and the miracle performed, which is Esther being in a position to save the other Jewish people, Kantor said. 

“The miracle of Purim was really the miracle which is kind of hidden,” Kantor added. “It’s not like a miracle, like the sea splitting or the water turning into blood or anything like the Passover miracles, it’s a miracle that seems to be very much within nature.” 

The hidden miracles are reflected in the tradition of wearing costumes because they hide a person’s true appearance, he said. 

Friedlander enjoyed baking Hamantaschen at Chabad on March 9, he said. The dough was already made and rolled into balls, roughly the size of an apple, and students flattened them before filling the centers with lemon, raspberry and chocolate.  

Friedlander decided to attend the baking event because he was more involved with Chabad in September 2021 and wants to be active in the organization again, he said.  

Friedlander plans to attend Chabad’s Purim party on Wednesday and is looking forward to the Megillah reading and using noisemakers to blot out Haman’s name, he said. 

“Regardless of the purpose of waving it around, they’re just fun to wave around in general,” he said. 

Madison Leonard attended Chabad’s Hamantaschen bake with her brother Maxwell, an undecided freshman at Temple, and her cousin Elizabeth Schecter, a senior communications sciences and disorders major at Pennsylvania State University, and plans on attending Chabad’s party on March 16, she said. 

She is looking forward to celebrating in person again because the 2020 Chabad Purim party was one of the last events she attended in person before the COVID-19 pandemic forced most places to shut down, said Leonard, a senior health professions major. 

Leonard’s favorite Purim tradition is making Hamantaschen, and she made Nutella and cherry-flavored ones with her family during the weekend, she said. 

“That just brings everyone together, it gets everyone in the spirit,” Leonard added. 

For Leonard, Purim is about coming together and having fun with family and friends, something that is even more important to her because of the pandemic, she said.

During the pandemic, she wasn’t able to celebrate with Chabad but baked “many, many batches” of Hamantaschen at home, Leonard said. 

Friedlander plans to attend the Chabad party and meet other Jewish people there, he said. 

“I’m looking forward to being able to celebrate in person because it’s the first time since 2020 and because it’s my first Purim here at Temple,” he added.

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