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How to Celebrate the Spirit of Purim Across DC!

Jewish-holiday-wise, Purim is sneaky. It creeps up in mid-February or March every year, just as we’re reeling from our second try at New Year’s resolutions, and are already thinking about Passover. (Mark your calendars – Purim starts on Wednesday night, February 28th!)

For those who need a little refresher as to what this holiday is all about – I’ve got you covered. Purim celebrates the story of the Book of Esther, when the Jews were saved from Haman’s evil plot. You may have heard it called  “The Jewish Halloween” because of the awesome costumes worn to celebrate the holiday. It’s also the holiday when we shake rice-filled water bottles and make triangular hamentaschen cookies  (plot twist: fill them with nutella?).

There are four core mitzvot (commandments) for celebrating Purim:

  • Reading the Book of Esther
  • Sending Mishloach Manot (snack goodie bags for neighbors and friends)
  • Eating a festive meal (with plenty of adult beverages for those who choose to partake)
  • Giving gifts to the poor (Matanot Le’evyonim). This mitzvah is our expression of gratitude for when Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai saved the Jews from being killed.

In my view, the last I listed – Matanot Le’evyonim, or gifts to the poor – is rarely emphasized in our general understanding of Purim. The Purim spirit is one of fun, filled with costumes, community parties, delicious Hamentaschen cookies, and general positivity and merriment. This year, I challenge us to put a bit more focus into the Matanot Le’evyonim mitzvah – to not just satisfy the mitzvah by giving to charity, but to truly carry over the positive spirit of joy and celebration that is Purim into acts of service.

These four mitzvot are all part of the Purim holiday! Here’s how to participate in all four – check out these happenings across DC to bring you closer to the Purim spirit!

 

Megillah: Reading of the Book of Esther

Listen to the Megillat Esther (the book of Esther) read aloud. When you add in maracas, rice-filled water bottles, plastic “noisemakers” from Party City, and enthusiastic booing for good measure – fulfilling this mitzvah is much more fun than it sounds.

You can hear the megillah reading at:

 

Mishloach Manot: Make gift bags for friends, family, and neighbors

If you want to send mishloach manot (gifts of food), make sure to include hamentaschen! (This may be controversial, but the best flavor is definitely poppyseed.) Get a head start on these gift bags with:

Spread the joy of hamentaschen to all: consider donating hamentaschen you bake to local senior centers like Congregation Etz Hayim did this past weekend at the Culpepper Garden senior living facility in Arlington.

 

Seudat Purim: Have a festive meal

This is the one mitzvah that everyone seems to remember as “it’s a mitzvah to get drunk on Purim!” Although this injunction does tell Jews to “drink until you don’t know the difference between Haman and Mordechai” – what it is saying, on a deeper level, is to find a way to look beyond our rational minds, and tap into our deepest, faith-based self – and, of course, to have lots of fun! However, for those of us who aren’t big into drinking – you can still celebrate this mitzvah with a delicious meal (filled with foods symbolic of the Purim story), and by letting go of stress and totally relaxing into the spirit of the holiday.

Celebrate this fun mitzvah by:

Consider providing a seudah or feast for others – collect cans or non-perishable food at your Purim meal for a local food pantry! See what places like So Others May Eat (SOME) need. In the truest millenial fashion, consider having guests purchase items in need off of Miriam’s Kitchen’s Amazon Wishlist.

Photo courtesy of The Jewish Federation

Matanot Le’evyonim: Giving back to those in need

Incorporating the spirit of service into the other Purim mitzvot can also help in bringing the spirit of Purim joy to the mitzvah of Matanot Le’evyonim!  This Purim mitzvah invites us to help at least two people and to provide enough food for a full meal. Go bigger than our typical mitzvah to give tzedakah, or charity, and bring the joyous Purim spirit to this mitzvah!

There are so many ways to infuse Purim joy into service work. Some may choose to give traditional tzedakah gifts, but others may prefer to give their time, energy, and skills. Read this article for more ways to give back across DC.

However you celebrate, wishing you a chag Purim sameach – a happy and joyous Purim!

 

 

 

 

About the Author: Shira Cohen is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you! When not writing about volunteer opportunities in DC, she works in student life and disability services at a local law school. Originally from Charleston, SC, Shira loves DC Library $1 book sales and District Taco.

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

DC Purim Events 2015/5775

purim dudeDid you know that here at Gather the Jews we got our name from the Purim story? Having been founded days before the holiday (and this Purim will mark our fifth birthday!), our founders chose to name their organization based on the Purim story.

In the book of Esther, Chapter 4, Verse 16, Esther tells Mordechai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Shushan, and fast for me.”

This passage – issued in opposition to the genocidal plots of Haman – represents the fighting spirit and strength of the unified Jewish people. Gather the Jews tries to bring together the members of the DC Jewish 20s and 30s because we believe in the strength of unification and the positive power of connection.

In that vein, Purim begins Wednesday, March 4th at sun down. Do you know where you’ll be celebrating? There are many opportunities in the coming weeks to celebrate with the DC Jewish Community.

Did we miss anything? Submit events here and/or leave a comment on this post.

Wednesday, February 25th

Saturday, February 28th

Monday, March 2nd

Wednesday, March 4th

Thursday, March 5th

Friday, March 6th

Saturday, March 7th

 

Need some more help for Purim? Here are a couple of costume ideas!

http://www.parenting.com/

http://www.parenting.com/

http://www.coolest-homemade-costumes.com/

http://www.coolest-homemade-costumes.com/

http://www.brit.co/

http://www.brit.co/

http://halloween-ideas.wonderhowto.com/how-to/10-truly-last-minute-halloween-costumes-dont-totally-suck-0149179/

http://halloween-ideas.wonderhowto.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you find your self really in a bind check out these Last Minute Costume Ideas!

 

What about all the great food during Purim?

There of course is Hamantaschen, which we all know and love so lets start there:

You could go for savory with a recipe from the Kosherologist.

http://www.thekosherologist.com/recipes/easy-pulled-bbq-brisket-hamentaschen

http://www.thekosherologist.com/recipes/easy-pulled-bbq-brisket-hamentaschen

 

 

Or the Cookie Overload Hamantaschen from With Love and Cupcakes:

http://withloveandcupcakes.com/2014/03/09/chocolate-chip-cookie-stuffed-chocolate-hamantaschen/

http://withloveandcupcakes.com/2014/03/09/chocolate-chip-cookie-stuffed-chocolate-hamantaschen/

 

 

Or spice it up with Mexican Chocolate Hamantaschen from the Jewish Food Experience:

http://jewishfoodexperience.com/spice-purim-mexican-chocolate/

http://jewishfoodexperience.com/spice-purim-mexican-chocolate/

 

But Purim is not just know for Hamentaschen, there are other great recipes you should try out this time of year!

If you are feeling a bit adventurous maybe try the Cooking Channel’s Kreplach recipe!

http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recipes/kreplach.html

http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recipes/kreplach.html

 

The Jewish Daily Forward has a alternative recipe for Poppy Seed Rolls:

http://blogs.forward.com/the-jew-and-the-carrot/136073/poppy-seed-rolls-giving-new-life-to-a-purim-trad/

http://blogs.forward.com/the-jew-and-the-carrot/136073/poppy-seed-rolls-giving-new-life-to-a-purim-trad/

 

And just because we have not talked about desert enough, here is a recipe for Haman’s Fingers from the LA Times:

http://www.latimes.com/food/la-fo-purim-rec4-20120301-story.html

http://www.latimes.com/food/la-fo-purim-rec4-20120301-story.html

 

Did we miss any of your favorite recipes? Let us know in the comments!

DC Purim Bash (2.0)

DCPurimBashPoster_2015 graphicThis year’s DC Purim Bash on Saturday, March 7th (affectionately known as Purim Bash 2.0) is going to be outstanding. Last year, the DC Purim Bash was a total experiment. We had no idea how much the young professionals community wanted a huge community Purim celebration, and the 530 of you who joined us probably saw that, while the party was awesome, we had no idea so many people would show.

This year, we’re ready. Last year, we had one bar. This year, we’ll have four. Last year, we were in a yoga studio in Adams Morgan. This year, we’re in the heart of Chinatown in the Shakespeare Theatre’s Sidney Harman Hall- one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Plus, we added a photo booth, great drinks, and a bunch of other things that will make this year’s DC Purim Bash even better, so join us. You’ll have a great time.

The DC Purim Bash is able to happen because the organizations who really like Jewish young professionals also really like each other. Before the DC Purim Bash, we all used to have our own Purim celebrations, often on the same night as each other. Last year, we asked ourselves “Why?” There is one big DC community of Jewish 20’s and 30’s, so what about celebrating together instead? The DC Purim Bash launched an unprecedented level of collaboration between our organizations, and after a lot of planning, DC saw the biggest Purim celebration in our city’s history. And we’re just getting started.

So who’s the “we” behind this shindig? Adas Israel’s YP@AI, DCJCC’s EntryPointDC, Gather the Jews, NOVA Tribe Series, Sixth & I, Washington Hebrew Congregation’s 2239, and Young Leadership of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington (joined, of course, with other community partners) are coming together to make this year’s DC Purim Bash happen. Our organizations are all a little different- some of us have buildings, some have rabbis, one of us is in Virginia, we are Reform, Conservative, or nondenominational, but we are all passionate about DC’s Jewish 20’s and 30’s community, and that’s why the DC Purim Bash works.

We can’t wait to get everyone together again this year, and see you March 7th. Register today!

 

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The DC Purim Bash Team

 

#PurimNotPrejudice: It’s about you, me, and every single Jew in our diverse community

purimnotprejudice6Hi, I’m MaNishtana.

You might know me from my blogs, book (Thoughts From A Unicorn), videos, website or any other newspaper or magazine appearance I’ve made over the past five years.  I don’t say this to portray myself as a big deal.  I say this to in fact to prove the opposite: Despite all the above you probably DON’T know who I am.  Because I’m not particularly a big deal. I’m just a guy who sees something and says something.

It is with this approach on social issues in Judaism that I recently founded The Shivtei Jeshurun Society for the Advancement of Jewish Racial & Ethnic Diversity, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting awareness of and equality for Jews of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.  The organization’s first public project was the #PurimNotPrejudice campaign, a pledge to consider the costume choices we made this Purim and every Purim from this  year forward, and to not cross the line into offending other cultures, such as dressing in stereotypical or derogatory garb representing a people.  Or—as is most personally resonant with me—dressing in blackface.

Jews tend to forget, or not even consider the fact, that Judaism is not a “Whites Only” sort of boys’ club, and that some costume choices run the risk not only of offending other cultures, but also of offending other Jews.  Which is ironic, as the Purim story is telling of the salvation of the Jewish communities which existed in Ahaseurus’ provinces from India to Ethiopia, not, for example, from Germany to Poland.  We found our campaign to be a noble goal to stem the corruption of religious observance with racially offensive themes.

However, apparently some people saw #PurimNotPrejudice not as the educational awareness tool it was meant to be, but instead as a campaign to point the finger, shame, and embarrass those who may have dressed in offensive ways in the past.  Let’s be clear: That’s not what this campaign was about.

There was an incident last year involving a leaked picture of a politician and a sensitive costume choice, and subsequent statements of racial insensitivity by Jewish public figures actually sparked the conversations and discussions that led to the eventual creation of the Shivtei Jeshurun Society, with the purpose to educate not only Jewish communities, but non-Jewish ethnic communities as well, to the racial and ethnic diversity which exists in Judaism.  This mission was at the heart of the #PurimNotPrejudice campaign.

This past Wednesday, the SJS received a voicemail questioning whether the #PurimNotPrejudice campaign was “a Purim spiel or a real organization”.  Since the SJS is always open to respectful dialogue, I myself returned the call, and was greeted with a barrage of questions and comments regarding the nature of blackface, instances when blackface is offensive, if there are specific ways that make-up has to be applied in order for it to count as blackface, and so on.

This is it.  This is what our organization has been created to do—take an opportunity to unravel an interaction like this and get to the bottom of the issue, to take this interaction from one-on-one settings to a national conversation.

#PurimNotPrejudice was not about any one person or any one event, or any one Purim costume or any one community.  #PurimNotPrejudice was about Purim, and about the Jewish community as a whole, in its entirety, with all its diverse faces and experiences.

This campaign was about using sensitivity to observe a holiday which largely exists because of the results of a lack of sensitivity.

After all, the Jews went to Ahaseurus’ party where the serving vessels were ransacked from the destroyed First Temple, yet couldn’t understand why G-d might take offense that they partook of the feast.  Ahaseurus ordered his wife Vashti to appear naked before his guests, but didn’t get why she might be offended.  Haman wore an idol around his neck and got furious when Mordechai didn’t bow to him, instead of seeing how his choice of clothing might be religiously insensitive to someone who doesn’t bow to idols.

So to celebrate such a holiday through the use of costumes that disregard the feelings of others—and especially to shrug criticism off with careless “It’s just fun” kind of statements—is counter-intuitive.

Now, the SJS understands that some people might genuinely be unaware of how their costume might offend or impact people.  And so #PurimNotPrejudice was here not to shame them or embarrass them, but to take the opportunity to inform them.  After all, a Shylock costume wouldn’t fly and a Nazi costume would be absolutely out of the question at a Halloween party, right?

We hope you enjoyed the Chag, and that you continue to support our future campaigns!

MaNishtana is the Executive Director of The Shivtei Jeshurun Society for the Advancement of Jewish Racial & Ethnic Diversity.

You can see the pledge here and view the campaign FAQs here.

DC Purim Events!

Purim-Food-DrinkGet those groggers going- it’s Purim time! Below are the Purim events around DC that we’ve gathered. See something missing? Let Rachel at rachelg@gatherdc.org know.

Thursday, March 6th:

Sunday, March 9th:

Wednesday, March 12th:

Saturday, March 15th:

Sunday, March 16th:

Pina Colada Hamantaschen

photo (1)I love hamantaschen, especially poppyseed.  But one of the best parts about them is that they can be filled with almost anything.  For this column, I tried to go outside the box with my fillings.  I tested three: pina colada, caramel popcorn, and pecan pie.  I thought the caramel popcorn ones would either turn out really well or really badly.  They weren’t so bad, actually, but nothing, as my family says, we’d serve to company.  The pecan pie hamantaschen have potential, but I had some serious technical difficulties with those.  Perhaps next year, I can post a recipe for pecan pie hamantaschen that did not have the filling leak out.  The last hamantaschen standing were the pina coladas: traditional fruit filling kicked up a notch.  And delicious.

Total time: about 1.5 hours

Yield: about 4 dozen

Level: Moderate

Ingredients

  • 1 cup crushed pineapple
  • ½ cup shredded coconut
  • 1-2 tbsp sugar (optional)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp milk
  • 3 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 3 cups flour, plus extra for rolling

 Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. In a small bowl, sitr together pineapple, coconut, and 1-2 tbsp of sugar, to taste (if using unsweetened coconut and/or pineapple).  Set aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl, blend butter and sugar until creamy.  Mix in eggs and milk.
  4. In a separate bowl, stir together flour and baking powder.  Add to the other ingredients, mixing until combined.  (It may be easier to mix with your hands for this step.)
  5. Working in batches, roll out the dough between two pieces of well-floured parchment, to a thickness of ¼”.  You may need to add more flour as you roll.
  6. Using a 2-3” diameter cookie cutter or glass, cut circles out of the dough and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
  7. Place a teaspoon of the pineapple mixture in the center of each circle.  Fold in three sides to make a triangle and tightly pinch the corners closed.
  8. Bake for 12-16 min, being careful not to brown them on top.

© Courtney Weiner.  All Rights Reserved.

DC Purim Events!

purimHere at Gather the Jews, we have a special affinity for Purim.  Having been founded days before the holiday (and this Purim will mark our third birthday!), our founders chose to name their budding organization based on the Purim story when Esther tells Mordechai: “Go, GATHER together all THE JEWS.”

Purim begins Saturday, February 23rd at sun down. Do you know where you’ll be celebrating? More events will be added as we learn about them so make sure to check back often!

Submit events here and/or leave a comment on this post.

updated February 21, 2013

Tuesday, February 12th

Wednesday, February 13th

Sunday, February 17th

Tuesday, February 19th

Thursday, February 21st

Friday, February 22nd

Saturday, February 23rd– Don’t forget your costumes!

Sunday, February 24th– Don’t forget your costumes!

Sunday, March 10th

 

Purim: A true shpiel

Anna Batler blogs about faith and feminism at http://sotah.net/.  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Anna Batler.

On Purim there is a “custom” to get so drunk that one is no longer able to distinguish between Haman, the arch villain, and Mordechi, the hero.   Within this is a hint at an alternative reading of the Book of Esther as a political satire and a comedy of manners.  This is a book of palace intrigue, hapless plots to assassinate a hapless king, and an hero who is hardly better than the arch villain.

Yummm...

This is Haman’s decree to kill the Jews:

“Letters were sent by courier to all the provinces of the king, to destroy, to slay and to exterminate all the Jews, from young to old, children and women, on one day….”

This Mordechi’s decree to kill everyone:

“The [king] has given permission to the Jews of every city to organize and to defend themselves; to destroy, to slay and to exterminate every armed force of any people or province that threaten them, along with their children and women, and to plunder their possessions.”

Both letters empower the population to abandon the rule of law.  The king, confronted by special interests, signs opposing bills –  government at its most hysterically ineffective.

It is clear from the start that the king cannot maintain the rule of law – not even in his palace. The Book of Esther begins with decree written upon the disobedience of Vashti, the queen who would not come to the king “wearing the royal crown” and presumably nothing else.  The King decrees that “all wives will show respect to their husbands, great and small.”  This decree would be seriously funny, even without mentioning that it applies to both “great” husbands and “small” husbands.

An ineffective government busies itself with legislating in its subjects’ bedrooms.

Today, the tradition of satire on Purim continues in the “purim Shpiel,” and yet it is often forgotten that the Book of Esther itself is a “purim Shpiel.”

So when you silently listen to every word of the megliah, take a moment, read and laugh a little.

Passover vs. Easter

This display at the Safeway at 17 and R made me realize why Christians sometimes think their holidays are better than Jewish holidays…   Where’s the Purim display?

Jewish items on the left: Matzo ball soup, Matzo, Kedem grape juice, gefilte fish, borscht. Christian goodies on the right: Chocolate bunnies, Snickers bars, Starbursts, malt chocolate eggs, peeps.

Chocolate bunnies... Mmmm....

Borscht... Not exactly every child's special treat...