Azerbaijan’s Jews postpone public Purim celebrations in deference to national memorial day

Leaders of the Jewish community of Azerbaijan have postponed public celebrations of Purim because the joyous Jewish holiday coincides this year with a national day of mourning.

This is the first time in many years that Purim falls on the anniversary of the Khojaly Massacre, an atrocity that occurred on February 25, 1992, in which Armenian troops killed 613 Azerbaijanis in the city of Khojaly, according to Rabbi Zamir Isayev, chairman of Georgian Jewish community of Azerbaijan.

“This year, we are observing all the commandments of Purim indoors, but we’ve moved public displays to February 28,” he says.

On Purim, Jews are commanded to drink alcohol, and it is customary to dress up, pull pranks and give out sweets and other gifts.

This “wouldn’t be appropriate on the memorial anniversary of Khojaly,” the rabbi says.

The anniversary is a solemn affair in which schools teach about Khojaly and television channels air only documentary and memorial programs.

Children attending the two Jewish schools and the Jewish kindergarten of Baku, where most of Azerbaijan’s some 8,000 Jews live, asked students not to come wearing costumes, as they normally do on Purim, Isayev says.

“They will dress up on Sunday,” he says.

Rabbi Shneur Segal, the rabbi of Baku’s Ashkenazi community and the top emissary of Chabad to Azerbaijan, says: “We are citizens of this multinational state, and as such, the Khojaly Massacre is also our tragedy. We mourn the loss of those peaceful Azerbaijanis who were cruelly murdered.”

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