On Purim (Thursday, Feb. 25, until Friday, Feb. 26, in 2021), Jewish families all over the Seattle area will dress up in costumes, make traditional treats, read from the Megillah (the story of Esther) and watch a funny and interactive shpiel (play) that tells the holiday’s origin story. This year, the celebrations will be adapted to follow current COVID-19 precautions.
The lively events, both outdoors and virtual, are open to anyone and provide a fun opportunity for kids to celebrate and learn about Jewish history and culture.
Although there are many variations on the Purim story, the basics are as follows: Esther was a Jewish woman in ancient Persia raised by her Uncle Mordecai. The villain of the story is Haman, an adviser to King Ahasuerus who has a wicked plan to kill all of the Jews. Esther conceals her Jewish identity and is chosen by the King to be his new Queen. With Mordecai’s encouragement, Esther bravely reveals to the King that she is Jewish and asks him to save her people from Haman’s evil plot. The King respects Esther’s wishes and the Jews are saved.
Rabbi Jaclyn Cohen, who serves Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle, says that the Purim story is accessible to all families, regardless of religious background. “Everyone can relate to the message of Purim,” Rabbi Cohen says. “There are times in our lives that we aren’t in a position of power, but we can still rise above and prevail.”
“We wear costumes to make the holiday fun, but also as a way to remember Esther’s decision to conceal her identity,” said Rabbi Cohen. “Esther hid herself, and it ended up being a tool for power.”
Rabbi Kate Speizer, Adult Engagement & Endless Opportunities Coordinator at Temple De Hirsch, and her two young children participate in the Purim tradition of mishloach manot, giving gifts of food to friends and participating in community service projects. Her family makes hamantaschen, triangle-shaped cookies with sweet fillings symbolizing the three-cornered hat that Haman wore. “We give baskets to our neighbors full of hamantaschen, nuts, and decorative noisemakers,” said Rabbi Speizer. “It’s a really fun, happy time.”
Looking for Purim food? Blazing Bagels is taking hamantaschen orders online for pickup at its Seattle and Eastside locations, while Zylberschtein’s Delicatessen & Bakery in the Pinehurst neighborhood in North Seattle is taking orders for hamantaschen as well as for a special Purim dinner.
There are many fun ways to celebrate all across the city in 2021, even if you don’t belong to a synagogue: