By Mindy Rubenstein

Congregation Beth Jacob is gearing up for its 22nd annual Purim parade and carnival March 1, its biggest fundraiser of the year and a draw for people of all backgrounds.

(Photo by Seth Lynn)
The Beth Jacob Purim parade is believed to be the biggest in North America.

“It’s such a big event, everyone takes a piece of it,” Beth Jacob’s Sybil Goldstein said.

More than 100 volunteers come together to plan the event. They work in shifts, cooking the night before and preparing in general for months.

The parade, which begins at the Toco Hills Shopping Center and ends at Beth Jacob, includes decorated floats and costumed adults and children marching down LaVista Road, which is closed for more than an hour.

Trophies will go to the top three parade floats and to the top three costumes. To participate in the parade, contact Shalom Teller at michaeldteller@gmail.com; to sponsor the parade, contact Harvey Steele at hsteele@bethjacobatlanta.org.

The festival that follows the parade features rides, bungee jumping, rock climbing, tea cups, bounce houses, train rides, face painting, balloon artists, arts and crafts, food, and a vendor marketplace with art, clothing, books and toys.

One highlight of the day is the attire of the synagogue’s clergy, Rabbis Ilan Feldman and Yechezkel Freundlich.

“One never knows how the rabbis will dress,” Goldstein said. “It’s a big surprise each year.” Previous years’ costumes have included matching shiny gold suits and judge outfits.

New this year, the food at the festival will include healthy vegetarian options and kosher cotton candy.

At 1:30 p.m. will be a free concert for children by Mr. Michael (Levine), who performs Jewish songs and plays the guitar. This is his second year at the event.

“He’s great; people really love him,” Goldstein said.

Purim, the Feast of Lots, is a joyous holiday that recounts the Jews’ salvation from a threatened massacre under the Persian Empire. The story of Purim is recounted in the Book of Esther, whose eponymous heroine plays the leading role in saving her people. The holiday is traditionally celebrated with festive parties, as well as gifts to friends and the poor.

Tzippy Teller, who owns the Spicy Peach, has attended the event since she was a little girl. Now she helps coordinate the Beth Jacob float and participates in the parade.

“I always look forward to it, and now my kids look forward to it,” she said.

Deemed the largest Purim parade in North America, it draws participants and onlookers from a variety of denominations and backgrounds.

“It’s a fun way for the Atlanta Jewish community at large to come together and celebrate,” Teller said. “It’s cool to be part of it.”

Participants include Heebs on Hogs, a Jewish biker group; Jewish schools; Boy Scout Troop 613; Hadassah; residents of the Jewish Home; and Hillels of Georgia.

“It includes all walks of life and all ages,” Teller said.

What: Annual Purim parade and carnival

Where: Parade runs along LaVista Road from Pikes Nursery at Toco Hills Shopping Center to Congregation Beth Jacob, 1855 LaVista Road

When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 1

Information: Sybil Goldstein at 678-244-6642 or sgoldstein@bethjacobatlanta.org