From the 25th to the 26th of February, the Jewish community celebrated the festival called Purim. This is one of the most joyous celebrations in the Jewish calendar as it involves sweet treats, dressing up and many fun activities. Typically, this festival would be celebrated in a synagogue with friends and family, but due to the pandemic it had to be celebrated differently. In this article I will be discussing what the story of Purim is and what it means to Jewish people. I will also be talking about how Woodford forest united synagogue celebrated it this year.

Firstly, what is the story of Purim? The story of Purim is in the book of Esther, also known as the Megillah. The story is read in Hebrew twice: once on Purim night, and again during the day. It is about a young Jewish girl named Esther, who is the niece to Mordechai. She marries King Achashverosh after winning a contest he created to find a new queen. She keeps her faith a secret at the palace. Her uncle Mordechai overheard a plan to assassinate the king, in which he warned the king and saved his life. This was recorded in the kingdom’s chronicles. Later on, an evil man named Haman became prime minister and became power hungry. Mordechai refused to bow down to him, which made Haman create an elaborate plan to kill every Jewish person in the kingdom. Haman asked the king to execute Mordechai, but the king remembered he had saved his life and rewarded him instead. Esther kept her faith in G-d and fasted for three days. She then told the king of Haman’s plan. Haman was then executed, saving all the Jewish people.

What does this story mean to Jewish people? Woodford forest united synagogue sent out a booklet which had this to say about the story of Purim, ‘The story of Purim tells of the great courage and self-sacrifice by Esther and Mordechai. Above all, it tells of a nation reborn, whole and committed to G-d. Even with the terrifying decree over them, not a single Jew abandoned their faith.’ Therefore, the story of Purim teaches Jewish people that G-d is present in their lives if they keep faith, even during difficult times. There is also an importance of gifting friends with food and giving to charity during Purim as unity is a strong theme in the book of Esther.

Now we have discussed the story of Purim, lets look at how Woodford forest united synagogue celebrated it remotely this year. The synagogue sent out a Purim package. This contained a Purim guide, a copy of the book of Esther and an activity booklet for children. There were also costume items, biscuits called hamantaschen’s and a gragger which is shaken whenever Haman’s name is mentioned during the reading of the Megillah. The synagogue arranged readings to be done over zoom or through a drive in. Although it is not the same as usual celebrations, the synagogue wanted to make sure we can remain to some form of normality and celebrate together, even if it has to be done remotely.