Purim holiday combines fun, tradition, modern significance

Children celebrate Purim in costume.Children celebrate Purim in costume.
Children celebrate Purim in costume.

Children celebrate Purim in costume.

BY Molly Congdon
Gazette Reporter
CLIFTON PARK — On Thursday, March 5, people dressed in costumes gathered at 4:30 at the West Crescent fire hall to celebrate Purim, the happiest holiday of the Jewish calendar, commemorating the salvation of the Jewish people from a plot to destroy them in the ancient Persian Empire.

“Every year we celebrate Purim here in Clifton Park by celebrating Jews in different countries because actually at that time, there were 127 countries under that empire,” Rabbi Yossi Rubin of the Clifton Park Chabad said. “Jews have the same basic bible, the Torah, but they’ve adapted to each place with various foods and dress — they bring uniqueness.”

In the past they have done Purim Hawaii, USA, Israel, China, Africa and Italy.

This year, they went with a Parisian theme. “This year we wanted to show solidarity with Jews in France,” Rubin said. “There was a terrorist attack in a kosher supermarket a couple of months ago.”

The Purim holiday is observed by a public reading of the Megillah — the ancient scroll of Esther — to recount the story of the Purim miracle, giving friends gifts of food, enjoying a festive meal and giving money to charity. This year they are giving funds to two different nonprofit organizations: one for Jews in France and the other for the Jews in Israel.

Metal tables were draped with white-and-black coverings; a red Eiffel Tower dusted in gold glitter served as the centerpiece for each.

The food, laid out buffet-style, included napoleons, croissants, delicate crepes with strawberries, French bread, french fries, special French chicken with herbs, and French meat pie. There was also a fruit-filled butter cookie called Hamantaschen — triangular-shaped to signify Haman’s hat.

Traditional fruit-filled butter cookies that represent Haman's hat.

Traditional fruit-filled butter cookies that represent Haman’s hat.

(In the year 356 B.C., in the ancient Persian Empire during the reign of King Ahasuerus, Haman — Ahasuerus’ royal vizier or prime minister — wanted to kill all of the Jews in the Empire, but two Jews — Mordecai and his cousin, Esther, the Queen of Persia — foiled his plans.)

Disguised in natural events
There was also French-style entertainment. The children and adults were able to enjoy a mime show by Zing-A-Gram’s Victor the Mime, clad in a black and white striped shirt, suspenders and a painted-on red nose.

Victor the Mime.

Victor the Mime.

Eli Sholman, a Yeshivah student from Brooklyn, read the scroll of Esther. He held his hands together and almost seemed to sing as he rhythmically recited the story.

Eli Sholman reads the ancient scroll of Esther.

Eli Sholman reads the ancient scroll of Esther.

It serves as a reminder that there are Hamans in every generation — individuals with evil ideas who desire to hurt innocents. However, the deepest and most powerful message is that God is there whether you see him or not; he’s behind the scenes pulling the string, orchestrating every twist and turn. Dissimilar from the open miracles of Passover and Hanukkah, the miracle of Purim was disguised in natural events.

The costumes, which ranged from a kitten, princess, chef wearing a puffy white hat, monkey and even Iron Man, are worn to represent that allusion. “God is hidden and behind the scenes,” Rubin said. “It’s not what we see on outside, it’s what’s on the inside.”