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Purim, Trumbull Style

Congregation B'nai Torah celebrates its own Halloween-like holiday.

The Jewish holiday of Purim is a day of celebration and charity.

Fifty families in Trumbull’s Synagogue joined the festivities on Sunday, attending the children’s carnival to commemorate the victory of good over evil, Jews over Persians and Queen Esther and her Uncle Mordechai over King Ahasuerus and his Prime Minister Haman.

Purim, said the synagogue’s Rabbi Colin Brodie, is “a happy day.” It celebrates a military victory some 2,500 years ago and is a national holiday in Israel. It is also, he said “the Jewish Halloween.” 

“Jews do four things on Purim:  they do mitzvot – acts of charity; give gifts to each other; dress up in costumes and enjoy a festive meal; and they read the Megillah, the Book Of Esther, that tells the day’s story,” Brodie said.

The Megillah reading is particularly joyous event, interrupted often as audience boos, hisses and makes loud noises with their graggers (toys that click loudly when eager listeners wave a short handle in circles that twirls a stiff board hit against a ratchet) whenever Haman’s name is mentioned.

Carnivalgoers played games including a ball throw, basketball foul shooting, decorating jewelry and cookies, dissing Haman with doses of shaving cream, tossing rings onto pegs on cities on a map of Israel, even playing pinball and getting their faces painted and nails polished. 

Two of the ring toss cities were Afula and Yauneel, the homes of high school emissaries Rom Bachar and Yael Meydan. Both graduated high school in Israel last year and are spending a this year in an educational exchange program in the US, teaching religious school children about Israeli culture before beginning their compulsory military service back home. Rom showed his skills as a juggler while Yael helped the younger children with their tosses.

Mara Brosler, a synagogue Board member, talked about charity. She was one of the carnival’s organizers and is also co-chair of the synagogue’s Social Action Committee. Two of the committee’s mitzvot are collecting food for the and participating in the Salvation Army’s Backpack for Food program, for which they gather and donate food for the seven weekend meals - from Friday dinner to Sunday dinner – for children who receive free or discounted meals in school during the week.

Another organizer was Debbie Velthuizen, who as Queen Esther wore one of the best costumes at the carnival. Velthuizen is president of the synagogue’s Sisterhood, a women’s group that is both a fund raiser for the synagogue and a fellowship group.

The sisterhood will tour the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side of New York on May 22. They welcome women interested in the Sisterhood to join the tour. The museum is a restored multifamily home built in 1863 that tells the story of immigrants who lived in the building during the late 19th century.

People and families interested in worship or a religious education in the Conservative Jewish tradition are invited to contact B’nai Torah at http://www.bnaitorahct.org/index.html.

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