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March 15, 2016 > Get your Purim party on

Get your Purim party on

By Sara Giusti

Purim, one of Judaisms most celebratory holidays (in fact, celebrants are encouraged to party more than usual!), is March 24, and three local temples are hosting events open to the public.

The origin of Purim begins in Persia, third or second century BCE. After a celebratory feast, a drunk King Ahasuerus demands a new wife after his previous queen disobeys him. All young women are to be presented to him so he can find a new wife; the beautiful Esther catches his eye. But he is unaware of Esthers origins as an orphan and a Jew, minorities in Persia.

The kings chief minister Haman dislikes Esthers first cousin, Mordecai (who fostered Esther), as he does not bow to Haman at the palace gates. Haman discovers that Mordecai is Jewish and begins plotting to kill him and all the Jews in the empire as revenge. Haman casts lots (purim) to decide on which day to unleash his evil plan. The thirteenth of the Hebrew month of Adar is chosen.

Mordecai quickly catches wind of Hamans plan, and pleads with Esther to tell the king and put a stop to it. However, the king has a strict law: no one is allowed to approach him, or death swiftly follows. Mordecai pushes Esther to take the risk. After hard consideration, she bravely decides to tell the king and risk her life.

Esther invites the king to two feasts, and at the second reveals her heritage and tells him of Hamans plan. Ahasuerus is furious, and immediately orders Haman hanged on the very gallows he was building to hang Mordecai.

It is on the fourteenth of Adar (usually falling in February or March) that Purim and the deliverance of the Jewish people is celebrated. Celebrations include reciting and listening to the Book of Esther, also called the Megillah; donating to charity; giving gifts of food and drink, known as mishloach manot, that come in colorful baskets; dressing up in costumes; drinking wine or other alcoholic beverages; and general joviality.

Fremonts Temple Beth Torah is hosting Pizza and Purim on March 23, and costumes are encouraged (those in costume get a discount on pizza!). There will be a reading of the Megillah, and music by SF Bay Area musician Mark Levy. Donations will also be received to benefit MAZON, a Jewish Response to Hunger.

ÒPurim is a fun, celebratory festival that everyone gets to enjoy, young and old. By design, itÕs crazy, offbeat, and full of surprises,Ó explained Rabbi Avi Schulman of Temple Beth Torah. ÒPurim is meant to be topsy-turvy, irrelevant, full of spirit.Ó

Castro ValleyÕs Congregation Shir Ami has two days of festivities planned Ð a family-friendly Purim service on March 25 and a carnival on March 27. There will be games, face painting, treats, and crafts galore. Costumes are highly encouraged at both celebrations.

ÒPeople often bring and eat homemade hamantaschen, which is a triangular shaped cookie [traditionally filled with poppy seed], fashioned after HamanÕs hat,Ó said Bonnie Frey of Congregation Shir Ami. Ò[When HamanÕs name] is said aloud, people use groggers or noisemakers and say boo, hiss and often stomp their feet to drown out his name,Ó she explained.

San LeandroÕs Temple Beth Sholom, one of the oldest synagogues west of the Mississippi at 130 years old, is hosting three days of Purim festivities. On March 18, catch a Purim spiel, a comedic dramatization of the Megillah, by the Berkeley Jewish Renewal Spielers. The group will perform ÒA Proper and Moral Land.Ó On March 20, enjoy a Purim Carnival, sponsored by the Gersten Religious School and Beth Sholom Preschool. There will be games, prizes, hamanstaschen, and more Ð donÕt forget to wear a costume! Finally, on March 23, there will be a Megillah reading and hamanstaschen bake-off.

Let loose, enjoy good company, and have fun this year at Purim!

Purim and Pizza
Wednesday, Mar 23
6:30 p.m.: Pizza Dinner
7:30 p.m.: Purim Service, costumes encouraged
Temple Beth Torah
42000 Paseo Padre Pkwy, Fremont
(510) 656-7141
Cost: Children 0 - 12 years free, $8 13 - 17 years ($5 with costume), $10 18+ years ($8 with costume)

Purim Service
Friday, Mar 25
7 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Purim Carnival
Sunday, Mar 27
11:15 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Congregation Shir Ami
4529 Malabar Ave, Castro Valley
(510) 537-1787
Free; e-mail Bonnie at to attend

A Proper and Moral Land
Friday, Mar 18
8 p.m.
Purim Carnival
Sunday, Mar 20
10 a.m. - Noon
Megillah Reading and Hamantaschen Bake-Off
Wednesday, Mar 23
7 p.m.
Temple Beth Sholom
642 Dolores Ave, San Leandro
(510) 357-8505
Free; some food for purchase
Questions, email Rinat:

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