What is Purim, you ask? You know that old adage that all Jewish holidays can be boiled down to the statement, “They tried to kill us. We won. Let’s eat!”? 

Well, Purim fits that mold perfectly! 

The holiday of Purim commemorates the saving of the Jews from a sinister plot to annihilate them in ancient Persia. As laid out in the Megillah, the Biblical Book of Esther, the story goes like this:


A young Jewish woman named Esther, niece of a man named Mordechai, was chosen by King Ahashverosh of Persia to be his wife. Mordechai told Esther to hide her identity and not to tell the King she was Jewish lest she face danger because of it. All was well until Morderchai overheard the deadly plot of Haman, a high official in the King’s court, to kill all the Jews. He called upon Esther to intervene. Esther was reluctant. After all, hadn’t Mordechai told her to hide her identity in order to stay safe? But in the most stirring words of the Megillah, Mordechai beseeches Esther, writing to her, “And who knows if this is the reason you have ascended to the throne.” 

Realizing her unique ability to advocate for her people, Queen Esther took a major risk by going to the King without being invited to do so – a risk that could lead to death. But, in a surprising course of events, Ahashverosh welcomed her and asked her what she wished. Esther came up with a plan and invited him and Haman to two banquets. During the second one, she revealed to the King her Jewishness and Haman’s plan, bravely pleading for her people. As a result, the resourceful and courageous Esther was able to foil Haman’s evil plot! The King granted Esther’s request, appointed Mordechai as his deputy, and ordered Haman to be hung on the gallows he had built for the Jews. 

This remarkable series of events is now celebrated on Purim, serving as a reminder to the Jewish people that brave advocacy and strategic thinking can influence the course of history. 

In addition to commemorating Esther's heroism, Purim is such a fun day! Jews celebrate by reading the Megillah aloud in synagogue. When the name of the evil Haman is read, it is traditional to drown it out by making noise, often with a special Purim noisemaker called a gragger. It is customary to dress up in costumes to mark the joyous frivolity of the day, so if you see some little superheroes or Disney characters running around your neighborhood, you’ll know why!

Jews also exchange gifts of packages of food called Mishloach Manot, and give Matanot La’evyonim, gifts to the poor. It is also traditional to hold a big feast, which in Hebrew is called a Seudah, in the afternoon of Purim day. Families and friends gather, often in costumes, to eat, drink and be merry together on this happy and fun-filled day.

We, at AJC, wish you all a joyous Purim! Hag Purim Sameach!

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