As Chabad centers across the globe ready themselves for the joyous holiday of Purim, which begins tonight at sundown, a new concept in celebrating the holiday is preparing to “take Purim to a whole new place”, says Leah Shemtov, director of programming at Chabad of Stamford, Connecticut. She means it literally. Chabad of Stamford, like a growing number of Chabad centers, celebrated Purim in recent years with a grand party themed around a unique destination. Previous Purims have been celebrated in Stamford with a Chinese Purim Party, Purim in the Shtetl, a Persian Purim and various other creative ways of spending the holiday. This year, for Stamford and dozens of Chabad centers in the US, Canada, Europe and South America, the obvious holiday destination was Israel.
“It’s on our minds,” says Diane Sloyer, co-chair, with her husband Eliot, of Chabad of Stamford’s “Purim Jerusalem” event, scheduled for tonight at the Stamford JCC. “A Purim party focused on the Holy Land is the perfect way to combine a holiday celebration with a tangible way to express support for Israel during this difficult time.”
“Purim Jerusalem” will feature Israeli singer Yoel Sharabi, a re-created Israeli “Shuk” with a spread of Israeli food, and opportunities to support families of terror victims in Israel by sending them letters, pledging to “do a Mitzvah for Israel” and financially supporting Jewish communities in Hebron and elsewhere desperately in need of funds, says Leah Shemtov.
“Aside for a great time, we want to give participants something very practical they can do to help the situation in Israel,” she says. Records of good deeds undertaken in merit of the Holy Land will be written on paper bricks that will then be posted on a mural designed to resemble the Western Wall at Chabad of Stamford’s headquarters. “We’re hoping this will snowball into something much bigger,” says Rabbi Yisroel Deren, executive director of Chabad of Stamford.
In Montevideo, Uruguay, Chabad shluchim Rabbi Eliezer and Rochel Shemtov took enthusiastically to the same idea. Montevideo’s “Purim Israel” will feature various activity stations themed on aspects of Israeli culture, a live web-cam hookup with an Israeli family struck by terror, where participants at the party can offer holiday wishes in real-time, Israeli food and music, pony rides for the kids (“The original plan was camel rides,” Mrs. Rochie Shemtov admits, “but there aren’t any in the country”), and the standard Purim spirit found in thousands of Chabad Purim celebrations across the world.
In White Rock, British Columbia, a suburban community minutes from the U.S. border, close to 100 people are expected at a Purim celebration with the same theme, says Mrs. Simi Schtroks, co-director, with her husband Rabbi Falik Schtroks, of the Center for Judaism. “Simulating an Israeli Purim experience highlights the situation in Israel and expresses our solidarity with our brothers and sisters there,” she says. A full Israeli experience at White Rock’s “Purim Jerusalem” will include Israeli videos, an opportunity to write notes which will be hand delivered to the Western Wall, orange juice making at the “Jaffa” station, sand art at the “Negev” station, and a variety of activities for the entire family.
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