How to make Purim meaningful as war rages in Ukraine

The Book of Esther, the traditional 3-cornered pastries, and other ways to observe a holiday that celebrates the triumph of good over evil

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

A snapshot of an 18th century Esther megillah, illustrated by a 14-year-old female scribe in Italy, on exhibit at the Israel Museum for Purim 2022 (Courtesy Israel Museum)
A snapshot of an 18th century Esther megillah, illustrated by a 14-year-old female scribe in Italy, on exhibit at the Israel Museum for Purim 2022 (Courtesy Israel Museum)

It’s tough to access that Purim spirit this year amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and the sea of refugees flooding Eastern Europe and Israel, but the holiday of costumes and hamantaschen arrives this week along with its customary revelry.

We have some options for marking the days of celebrations, from costume design and megillah scroll viewings to hamentaschen baking and giving.

1) It may be easier than you think to make an adaptive costume for children who use walkers or wheelchairs, thanks to Beit Issie Shapiro in Ra’anana, a provider of therapies and services for people with disabilities, which paired with the Holon Institute of Technology this year to create DIY costumes for the mobility-impaired.

There are four video tutorials of costume designs that are adjusted for wheelchairs and walkers, along with written instructions and patterns so parents and caregivers can easily create adaptive costumes for their kids. All that’s needed is some patience and a fairly short list of materials.

2) After reading Megillat Esther, the scroll from which the story of Esther, Mordechai and Haman is read to mark the holiday of Purim, go visit the Israel Museum’s 18th century scroll, illustrated by a 14-year-old Roman girl named Luna Ambron. It’s one of just a few Jewish manuscripts created by female scribes. This scroll includes a sheet of the blessings — also created by Luna Ambron — recited at Purim.

Ambron was the daughter of Yehuda (Leone) Ambron, from a middle-class Jewish family originally from Spain that established itself in Rome following the expulsion and became one of the wealthiest and most prominent Jewish families in the Roman Ghetto.

A snapshot of an Israel Museum megillah illustrated by a 14-year-old female scribe in Italy (Courtesy Israel Museum)

Ambron’s illustration on the decorated sheet of blessings shows Haman leading the horse-mounted Mordecai with musicians playing alongside, together with a pair of emblems, each with a lion and a crescent – the Ambron family crest.

On the subject of Esther, Jerusalem art gallery and educational center Kol HaOt is showing works by folk artists from villages around the world as a kind of visual dialogue with the biblical Queen Esther, Mordecai and Ahasuerus, part of a thirty-year collection by artist David Moss.

Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

DIY costumes for kids in wheelchairs or walkers from Beit Issie Shapiro and Holon Institute of Technology (Courtesy Beit Issie Shapiro)

3) Purim is a good time to visit Anu — Museum of the Jewish People, which has a tour of Purim scrolls and masks, as well as costumes and outfits from the museum’s collection. Guided visits follow the story of the Book of Esther through the museum’s costumes and outfits from around the world, offering another way to discover Jewish history, full of colors, characters, costumes and secret identities. Tours are held in Hebrew, on Wednesday and Thursday, March 16-17, at 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.

There’s also the Heroes Gallery, an open space for children ages 6-12 with games, animation, motor skills challenges and riddles that introduce them to Jewish heroes.

Be sure to order a time slot in advance through the Anu website.

A toy robot from the collection at the Jaffa Museum’s ‘Every Toy Has A Story’ exhibit, through April 9, 2022 (Courtesy Hagay Marom)

4) The whole family can find something to marvel at in the Jaffa Museum where a nostalgic toy exhibit, “Every Toy has a Story,” showcases a collection of hundreds of toys from the 1920s to present times, including hero figurines, dolls, cars, planes and Israeli board games. The exhibit is open through April 9, no tickets required.

On Saturdays, visitors can participate in a tour that includes a kit for making a toy, for ages 3-5 and 4-6.

5) If you’re baking hamentaschen, you can sell them and use the money to support Hamantashen for Ukraine, a Berlin-based effort donating proceeds to Polish Humanitarian Action, an organization that is distributing food, hot drinks, diapers, hygiene products and blankets, as well as providing information and transportation for newly arrived refugees from Ukraine.

The effort was put together by Berlin baker Laurel Kratochvila, a Jewish-American bagel store owner, who created the fundraising project for professional bakers and cafe owners to bake through March 17 and sell hamantaschen — preferably one special flavor — at their bakery or cafe and donate a percentage of sales to the cause.

She chose hamantaschen because the three-pointed cookie symbolizes the holiday of Purim. “a time of reflection about destructive megalomaniacs and triumph of good over evil. Ukrainians are, in real time, facing a modern-day Haman in Vladimir Putin. Let’s do what we can to help,” wrote Kratochvila.

Home bakers can participate by selling their goods or just donating to the cause.

Finally, read about a yeasted dough and poppy seed filling recipe from one Ukrainian family, as told by the Jewish Food Society.

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