AJT correspondents and community leaders share their Purim experience this year, mostly outdoor events, car parades, costumes and contests.
Cars, Crawl and Color War
By Chana Shapiro
The Purim Crawl, on Feb. 21, took the place of the planned 30th annual Purim Parade. The possibility of safely managing a communal event with marchers, school groups and floats, followed by a festival, food and entertainment, was discussed with medical advisors. Consequently, instead of an event that could spread COVID-19, a family-friendly, car-based event was planned and co-chaired by Sarah Faygie Berkowitz and Sara Davis.
The free event, to which all past Purim Parade participants were invited, was a multi-activity, clue-following, all ages welcome “crawling” experience. There were 199 vehicles in the procession with members of many different synagogues driving slowly up and down streets as they followed clues.
Cars lined up in the Beth Jacob parking lot, where a 9-foot Queen Esther and costumed volunteers entertained. Vehicles received clues and kits with activities to engage kids. Radio station 90.3 WAPC and a YouTube channel provided music and live reporting on crawl activity, while a drone recorded the fun from the skies.
Crawl competition winners were best-dressed car: The family of Rabbi Avram and Shira Rubin and the family of Rabbi Yaakov and Hannah Fleshel. The family of Rabbi Tzvi and Temima Oratz were best-costumed; Zevi Gopin won the candy-guessing game; Josh and Ilana Yehaskel family won the raffle, and the family of Rabbi Mordechai and Leah Pollock won the scavenger hunt.
“I’m hoping that next year life will go back to normal, but this was one of the silver linings of celebrating during a pandemic,” said participant Davida Graber.
A week earlier, on Feb. 14, Beth Jacob congregants were invited to The Adar Games. In the jovial spirit of Purim’s Hebrew month of Adar, a rollicking color-war competition was announced, and the entire Beth Jacob membership was divided into two teams, Purple Reign (chaired by Josh and Sari Joel) and Orange Crush (chaired by Shlomo and Elisheva Storch). There were challenges for all ages and abilities, linked through a Zoom Room. After a week of neck-and-neck rivalry, including a debate, trivia challenge and poker tournament, Orange Crush won.
Wheels and Spiel
By Dr. Terry Segal
Temple Beth Tikvah kicked off Purim a week early with Mishloah Manot, the religious school fundraiser with festive cards and gift baskets sent and received, along with monetary donations to Jewish Family & Career Services.
Education Director Suzanne Hurwitz emailed the AJT, “I’ve always loved Purim (the story, dressing up, Hamantaschen … what’s not to love?!) and didn’t want the pandemic to stop our members and the community from having a great celebration.”
For decades Cantor Nancy Kassel has written the scripts for the Purim spiel, cast the actors, directed rehearsals, and this year, orchestrated our individually filmed segments with the production crew. Temple member Jon Marks joined Kassel in creating this year’s script for the Taschie (short for hamantashen) Awards Feb. 25.
The pre-recorded ceremony was hosted by Lori and Andy Goldstrom, with these categories, winners and characters: Best Megillah Chanter, Cantor Nancy Kassel as Opera Woman; Best Heroes, Rebecca and David Halusic as Esther and Mordecai; Best Villain, Steve Cohn as Haman; Best Royal, John Restler as King Ahasuerus; Best Dancer, me, as Vashti; Best Dressed for Services, Rabbi Shuval-Weiner, as herself; and Best Producers, Ted Nathan and Ron Swichkow, as themselves.
The rabbi led the megillah reading on Zoom Feb. 26 with the wish that next year the congregation be together in person.
And on Feb. 28, cars of costumed families drove to 11 stations as part of the in-person CARnival. The stations included: Shushan Supplies, Grogger Guess, Esther’s Megillah (put the Purim story in the correct order) Vashti’s Fortune Telling, Shushan Wax Museum (for photos) Make Some Noise, Car DeCARation, Mordechai’s Mishloach Manot, TBT’s Red Carpet, Feed Hangry Haman and Haman’s Lots.
There were prizes, smiling faces and joy at safely seeing teachers and classmates in person.
Honk Out Haman
Thirty cars signed up to participate in Congregation Etz Chaim’s in-person Drive-In Megillah reading Feb. 25, while dozens of our families participated virtually from home. In addition to free popcorn and soda, the synagogue unveiled its Marvel Avengers-themed megillah text on its new 20-foot screen, Rabbi Daniel Dorsch told the AJT.
“The megillah reading was the perfect multi-generational activity that included all age groups in the synagogue and the greater East Cobb community. All had a wonderful time singing Purim songs and honking their car horns whenever Haman’s name was read aloud this year.”
Etz Chaim also hosted a Costume Car Contest Feb. 28. The cars drove around to the outdoor sanctuary, where the religious school students cheered them on. This event was followed by a traveling Purim carnival called Purim Around East Cobb in which there were nine host homes in three neighborhoods with groups rotating to three homes in a neighborhood.
Games in those sites included large Connect 4 and Jenga games, basketball, fishing and more. There was also a different prize bag at every home that fit with the neighborhood theme, including superheroes, luau and pirates.
There was also a Virtual Purim Party in which participants received a goodie bag with prizes and Purim activities and played Virtual Scavenger Hunt. More than 150 people participated in these Purim Around East Cobb activities, which were funded by the Making Jewish Places initiative of Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, said Engagement Director Heather Blake.
“In normal times, my kids would have been part of organizing our synagogue’s Purim carnival with the youth group,” said member Esti Kleinman. “So they obviously were excited to have an opportunity to do so as a hosting family and they had a BLAST!”
Walking the Red Carpet
By Shaindle Schmuckler
Purim may have been different this year, but Chabad of North Fulton, not wanting to miss out on the masquerade fun associated with Purim, held a “drive up” program Feb. 26 called Purim on the Red Carpet. Families drove up to the Chabad parking lot and walked up the red carpet with their costumes to receive a special prize, said Rabbi Hirshy Minkowitz.
“It is known as one of the happiest days on the Jewish calendar, yet this year Purim carries with it somewhat of a somber touch,” said the Chabad director. “It marks almost a year since the COVID lockdown came to Atlanta [with] synagogues and community centers shut down the week after Purim 2020 and now almost 12 months later, we find ourselves with life not fully back to normal.
“It was important that we find ways for the Jewish joyous days to be celebrated. One of the things we learned in the last year is that there is always another way to keep our original traditions going while maintaining the highest standards of safety and COVID guidelines.”
On the red carpet, each person had the opportunity to perform all four of the Purim mitzvot, Minkowitz said. Mini Purim baskets were available to take and give to a friend; coins were available to give to charity; sandwiches could be made into a Purim feast; and there was an opportunity to hear the megillah read, he said.
A week before Purim, on Feb. 21, Chabad of North Fulton hosted a virtual Family Hamantasch Bake. The program was sponsored by the Making Jewish Places initiative of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. The initial goal was to enroll 25 families for the online program, said Rabbi Hirshy Minkowitz. But due to overwhelming demand, it was expanded with an enrollment of more than 110 people, he said.
Each family received a baking kit in advance that contained all the supplies needed to make hamantashen, including a personalized apron, rolling pin, all the ingredients and toppings.
Chabad also organized a Purim basket delivery program in which over 300 families received a mishloach manot food basket for Purim delivered to their door.
Chabad youth director Rabbi Gedalya Hertz said he was glad the synagogue could offer such a memorable event. “Purim is the holiday that kids remember most because of how much fun it is. We are grateful that despite the COVID challenges, 2021 won’t be any different for them.”
AA and Cocktails
By Flora Rosefsky
The email announcement to members of Ahavath Achim Synagogue members was a heads-up about how Purim would be celebrated during this COVID year: “Pour your favorite drink of choice, put on your silliest costume, and sit back in your favorite chair as Purim comes live to you in your living room. Services will feature the AAbsolute band setting your favorite tunes to the liturgy, a spirited megillah reading and commentary sure to make the words pop off the screen, and late-night breakouts for adults only to gather and have some fun as a community.”
For those who virtually attended the Zoom Purim Feb. 25, they had ample opportunities to celebrate the holiday at home. The Break-Out-Room one-hour choices for adults included a study session led by Rabbi Neil Sandler. For those who chose art, Stephanie Jacobs taught how to create an abstract painting expressing the emotions of the holiday. Sara Papier led a workshop, “Mixology with Mordecai.” A hot link was provided to a shopping list of supplies for those who wanted to make some new cocktails. And for children, grades 6 and older, the breakout room “Standing Up for Your Beliefs” used Queens Vashti and Esther as role models for speaking their minds for equality and beliefs.
Instead of a large Purim carnival this year, AA offered three different family Purim activities. Families baked hamantashen, created Purim face masks and crowns, created a puppet show and virtual costume “parade” from home.
Jackie Nix, AA director of youth & family engagement, said that in spite of the pandemic, synagogue programs such as for Purim prove there are new and more personal ways to connect with each other on deeper levels than might have taken place at the traditional carnival.
“I look forward to bringing back the larger in-person events we are all missing,” she said.
Queen Esther’s Gambit and More
Chabad Intown’s spirit of Purim was high this year despite concerns about the pandemic, said Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman. Face masks, social distancing and lots of hand sanitizer were obvious additions to this year’s Sober Purim Party, YJP’s Purim Party “Queen Esther’s Gambit” with 65-plus masked Young Jewish professionals gathered at The Plaza at Ponce City Market, the Chabad director said.
There was also a drive-by megillah reading for the families and children of the Intown Jewish Preschool. To close out the celebrations, a megillah reading on the BeltLine right before candle lighting and Shabbat was welcomed with challah and chicken soup, Schusterman said. Sober Purim was sponsored by Jeff’s Place, Arden’s Garden and HAMSA (Helping Atlantans Manage Substance Abuse).
Falafel and Street Fun
Congregation Beth Shalom celebrated Purim with an interactive online megillah reading on erev Purim and an in-person Purim celebration in the parking lot Feb. 28, according to education director Linda Zimmerman.
More than 120 people joined together for games, crafts, a costume parade, hamantaschen and a children’s megillah reading – all with masks and social distancing, she said.
“Congregants enjoyed visiting in person with their Beth Shalom community and looked forward to more opportunities to come together in the future. Delicious food was provided by the Adamah Falafel Food Truck.”
On Feb. 23, Jewish Fertility Foundation partnered with PJ Library to bring Atlanta-based JFF alumni families together for a virtual hamentashen-making experience. JFF hired Debbie Lewis, a Jewish Sandy Springs resident and the owner of Red Spoon Bakery, to teach young families how to make hamentashen. The program also included Purim music by Hannah Zale of In The City Camp, noisemaker arts and crafts, and Purim storytime with PJ Library stories. PJ Library provided PJ Purim books and Purim-themed coloring sheets to all attendees.
- Chana Shapiro
- Flora Rosefsky
- Shaindle Schmuckler
- Terry Segal
- PJ Library
- Jewish Fertility Foundation
- In the City Camp
- Red Spoon Bakery
- Congregation Beth Shalom
- Jeff's Place
- Arden's Garden
- Chabad Intown
- Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman
- Ahavath Achim Synagogue
- Chabad of North Fulton
- Ponce City Market
- congregation etz chaim