“When the month of Purim (Adar) arrives, our joy is increased!”
— Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Ta’anit
Purim celebrates a profound reversal of fortune — the deliverance of the Jews of ancient Persia from persecution. Rescued by heroic intervention from Queen Esther and her cousin Mordecai, the Jewish people were saved from the diabolical plot of the evil Haman (booooo!). Although the story of Purim, recalled in Megilat Esther or the Book of Esther, reads somewhat like a farce, it's laced with the all too real themes of concealing one’s identity and overcoming the baseless hatred of anti-Semitism.
On campuses around the world, Hillel empowers students to take part in the joy and merriment of Purim. They celebrate with traditional observances, such as reading Megilat Esther, sending gifts of food to friends, giving tzedakah, enjoying a festive meal and, of course, wearing costumes. Below are highlights from some of their celebrations:
Break A Leg
Metro Chicago Hillel brought Megillat Esther, or the Book of Esther, to life with its second-annual improv competition. Competing for a prize of $500, three teams of students from University of Illinois at Chicago, DePaul University and Columbia College performed their own rendition of the Purim story. They were judged by local Chicagoans involved in the theatre scene, including Jewish actor Mac Cherny, creator of the original musical comedy, “A Matzah Ballin’ Good Time.” (Photo by Ariana Rubin.)
Nosh, Nosh, Nosh
Sticky-handed students from North Carolina Hillel spent a night in the kitchen making hamantaschen, tricornered Purim treats which symbolize the hat worn by Haman (boooo). They stuffed the cookies with a variety of traditional fillings, such as poppy seed, apricot and chocolate.
Students at Brandeis University Hillel blotted out the name of the evildoer Haman by waving ra'ashanim, or noisemakers, during the chanting of Megillat Esther. They dressed in colorful costumes, such as Cat and the Hat, and had the opportunity to attend an egalitarian, Orthodox or women’s service.
Sip, Sip, Hooray
Hillel Krakow organized a bartending workshop, teaching students of legal drinking age how to prepare colorful cocktails a week before the holiday. The winning flavor, a pineapple cocktail, was served at its Purim celebration.
Dressed in costume, students and staff from University of Southern California Hillel participated in Pico Purim Hop. They rang in the holiday by visiting synagogues of different denominations around Los Angeles to hear Megillat Esther and munch on crumbly hamentaschen.
Wearing blue sparkly earrings in the shape of Jewish stars, Lady SinAGaga, a Jewish drag queen, took to the stage during Pace University Hillel’s holiday party. After her performance, she met with students and posed for photos.
A New Spin
Students at Franklin & Marshall Hillel put a twist on the age-old tradition of sending mishloach manot, gifts of food and drink given to at least one person on Purim. They packed menstrual mishloach manot kits, stuffed with pads, soap and other sanitary products for girls in need, and watched a screening of the Oscar-winning documentary, “Period. End of Sentence.”
Rock 'n' Roll
Inspired by singers David Bowie and Joan Jett, students dressed in black and wore spiked jewelry to a rock-themed Purim party, organized by Hillel Russia in St. Petersburg. They danced to hits from the '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s.
As part of their Alternative Spring Break trip to Poland, a handful of students from Columbia/Barnard Hillel celebrated Purim with Hillel Warsaw students and Jewish community members. They dressed in costume, danced to live music and lit sparklers.
It's a Mitzvah
In between classes, students from Stetson University Hillel gathered around an outdoor table on campus to hear Megillat Esther, fulfilling one of the four mitzvot Jewish people are commanded to do on Purim. One of their peers, Shmuel Fogel, chanted from the scroll while they followed along.