Purim carnival a time for serious fun in Topeka

Event recounts heroic story of Queen Esther

Purim is an ancient holiday with applications for modern-day Jews.

 

It commemorates the heroism demonstrated about 400 B.C. by Queen Esther, who according to Scripture helped save the Jewish religion from possible extinction at the hand of Haman, a top assistant to King Ahasuerus in Persia, an area that is now the nation of Iran.

Haman’s plot to do away with the Jews of his day was intercepted — then foiled — by Queen Esther.

The Purim holiday, which traces its origin to the biblical Book of Esther, was observed this past weekend during a family-friendly Sabbath service on Friday night, March 10, at Temple Beth Sholom, 4200 S.W. Munson.

Instead of regular religious school on Sunday morning and afternoon, March 12, an annual Purim event and carnival took place at the temple, geared for both children and adults, many of whom donned costumes for celebration.

In addition to carnival activities inside the temple’s social hall, older youths at Sunday’s event made scarves for recent immigrants to the United States, in keeping with the Purim theme of gift-giving.

Rabbi Debbie Stiel, of Temple Beth Sholom, who dressed in a clown outfit for the carnival, said attendees came to the celebration from congregations in Topeka, Manhattan and Lawrence. It is the only time of the year Jewish congregations from all three cities get together.

Though merriment ruled the day, Stiel said, the message delivered through the account of Queen Esther wasn’t to be lost.

“There is a serious side to this story,” Stiel said, “which includes the message that we have to be aware that government leaders can do crazy things, and when they do, we need to speak up and be courageous and stand up for what is right.”

Shai Ben-Itzhak, 8 of Manhattan, dressed in a costume as Queen Esther, complete with a crown. She said she enjoyed being at the carnival with the other children.

“I can buy toys, and I have fun with the games,” she said. “And I like the costumes.”

Adults who attended said they enjoyed watching the youngsters enjoying themselves, but also were glad the children learned the meaning behind Purim.

“The kids just have so much fun,” said Deborah Edelman-Dolan, a member of Temple Beth Sholom. “It’s a way to have fun in a Jewish way.

“They learn the story of Esther. Part of what we learn is standing up for our religion and not letting ourselves be victimized by hate.”

Contact reporter Phil Anderson at (785) 295-1195 or follow live reports @Philreports on Twitter. Like him on Facebook at facebook.com/philreports.tcj/

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