Purim in a Pandemic


Hamantaschen — triangular, jelly, or chocolate-filled cookies — is a traditional dessert for Jews around the Jewish holiday Purim. Their three-pointed shape is a reference to Haman, a court official who attempted to destroy the Jews of Persia in the Megillah story. (Photo used by permission of Pexels)

People celebrate Purim, the Jewish holiday about Queen Ester and Jewish survival in ancient Persia, with a party. Children dress up in costumes, friends exchange mishloach manot — gift baskets — and people go to synagogue where they listen to the Rabbi read the Megillah.

In a normal year this is how people celebrate Purim, but 2021 is anything but normal.

Hannah Sienkowski is a freshman at Leesville Road High School. In the past, her and her extended family spent Purim together. “How I usually celebrate Purim is by going to the temple and having fun with my family and friends,” she said via text. 

This year, Sienkowski and many others had to change their usual plans to ones that comply with the Covid-19 safety outlines. Therefore, instead of heading to the synagogue, Sienkowski and her family are staying home and baking hamantaschen. 

Similarly to individual families, synagogues are having to deviate from their standard Purim plans to create ones that respect COVID guidelines. The Chabad of Raleigh  — aka the Jewish Life Center — is a small synagogue that goes all out for their annual Purim event. Last March, temple members celebrated the holiday with a Japan-themed evening. Children came dressed in kimonos, and the synagogue served a sushi buffet for dinner in the social hall.  

This year, in lieu of indoor festivities, a virtual invitation labeled “Glow In The Dark Red Carpet Purim Masquerade” tells people to “remain in or next to your cars.” In front of the synagogue they will have a traditional megillah reading and an “LED And Fire juggling Performance,” all socially distanced. 

People are celebrating Purim by hosting these events and others safely — showing us that even while living in a pandemic, there are still ways to make things fun. 


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