Got Purim?


by Raizy Metzger - LUBAVITCH HEADQUARTERS

March 10, 2004

If the worldwide Chabad-Lubavitch Purim experience were to be summed up, perhaps a postcard gimmick from a newly-opened Chabad branch in Ponte Vedra, Florida would do it best. Reminiscent of the popular milk ads, a masked-and-mustached little boy on a brightly colored card asks, “Got Purim?” The answer, on the back of the card, is swift and inviting: We do!

As sum-ups go, it’s probably the best there is. Because in fifty states and dozens of countries and thousands of cities worldwide, Chabad has indeed “got Purim” this year—with Purim events that ran the gamut from large-scale carnivals to all-night parties to black-tie Purim feasts. And while figures are difficult to come by, it’s safe to say there’s hardly a Jewish community in the world that didn’t celebrate Purim with Chabad this year.

In Ponte Vedra, near Jacksonville, “Chabad @ The Beaches” hosted their first-ever Purim event. A mere four months after their arrival, Chabad directors Rabbi Nochum and Leah Kurinsky say they are thrilled with event’s large turnout- nearly 200 members of Ponte Vedra’s Jewish community.

“People were looking for a place where they, along with their children, could feel the simple joy of Purim,” Leah Kurinsky says. As one of only several days in the Jewish calendar where the mandate is to feast, drink and be merry, Purim is a day no Jew should miss out on. Chabad’s Got Purim event, held at a local Holiday Inn, was toted as a “fun- filled hands-on event for the entire family” and included Megilla reading, holiday crafts, hamentashen baking, a masquerade, and more. Like most Purim events, the focus was on the youngest members of the community.

“Purim is a kids’ holiday,” says Rabbi Hershel Spalter of Chabad of Costa Rica. Spalter’s Chabad center coordinated a lively, large-scale Purim-themed amusement park, enjoyed by some 400 members of San Jose’s Jewish community. Set up on the spacious grounds of a private club in San Jose, the event featured rides, games, shows and holiday food stands.

In Sugarland, Texas, near Houston, nearly 200 people participated in Sunday evening’s grand Purim carnival and feast, a yearly celebration at the Chabad House.

The carnival, with game booths, kosher ice cream stands, a dance machine, clown show, and more, was designed for the “kids and kids-at-heart,” according to Chabad’s Rabbi Mendel Feigenson.

“The idea is to make it all really exciting for children, so even if they only come once a year for this Purim celebration, they can associate Jewish practice with a lot of fun,” Spalter in Costa Rica says. And while Purim’s dramatic story and colorful traditions offer endless appeal to kids, the joy of the day touches all ages, he adds. Purim parties held in the resort towns of Mal Pais and Joca, each five hours from San Jose, drew crowds of Israeli and Americans tourists and ex-pats, eager to participate in the joy and excitement that characterizes Purim.

Easing the transition from staid everyday life to jolly Purim merrymaking is usually a generous lechaim – at least for the kids-at-heart at every Purim party. But at one celebration in LA, the joyous atmosphere comes from the day itself, and the policy- unusual for Purim- is strictly no-booze.

This is the annual Purim party hosted by Chabad’s Residential Drug Treatment Center for clients, ex-clients, their families and friends. For recovering drug and alcohol addicts, no-booze is an inevitable stipulation, but, says director Donna Miller, it took little away from Saturday night’s festive event.

“For a recovering addict, the ability to be joyous without the aid of alcohol is the greatest miracle,” she says. “Purim expresses the joy of people who are getting their lives back together by celebrating the hidden miracles-- the small things you may not have even thought were significant.” As in the Purim story, she explains, it’s often the small steps that bring about personal redemption for many of Chabad’s clients.

Expressing that joy were an estimated 150 participants, entertained by the live musical entertainment from “The Chabad Boys,” a five-piece alumni band, and a modern day “Purim-at-the-drug-rehab” play performed by staff and clients.

In The Netherlands, some 200 community members in The Hague joined Chabad and the Jewish community for a grand Purim feast, dubbed “Purim Italiano.” True to its name, the event celebrated Purim “Italian-style,” with Italian food, décor and entertainment for adults and kids. Purim, with its tale of miraculous Jewish survival despite a brutal enemy, had “particular significance for The Hague this year,” says Chabad Rabbi Shmuel Katzman, referring to the ICJ’s hearing on the security fence in Israel, which has brought The Hague to the front page of newspapers across the world in recent weeks. Though the protests have died down for now, at least until the ruling is issued, “it’s a tough climate to be in,” he says, and the message of Purim with the lively party did its usual magic to raise the city’s spirits.

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