In the Book of Esther, Mordechai encourages his niece, Queen Esther, to use her influence with King Ahasuerus. “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” he tells her. Esther listens to Mordechai and manages to save the Jewish people from annihilation, while Ahasuerus’s previous wife Vashti is remembered for refusing to obey the king. Ahead of the Purim holiday March 11-12, JNS.org surveys four female religious leaders from different Jewish denominations for their perspectives on the lessons contemporary women can glean from the Purim story.
Many Jewish children start thinking about their next year’s Purim costumes before their parents can even rid the house of the chametz (leavened products) from the traditional “mishloach manot” Purim gift baskets in order to prepare for Passover cleaning. This year, why not integrate the costumes and gift baskets into the same theme? JNS.org brings you seven costume-mishloach manot pairing ideas to get you started.
In her recently published memoir “My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Family, with Recipes,” New York Times wellness blogger and nutritionist Dawn Lerman shares her food journey and that of her father, a copywriter from the “Mad Men” era of advertising. Dawn spent her early childhood in Chicago constantly hungry as her ad man father pursued endless fad diets from Atkins to Pritikin, and insisted that Dawn and her mother adopt his diets to help keep him on track. As a child, Dawn felt undernourished both physically and emotionally, except for one saving grace: the loving attention she received from her maternal grandmother, Beauty. JNS.org presents an adapted excerpt from Chapter 1 of “My Fat Dad,” in addition to a recipe for a healthier version of Beauty’s hamantaschen for Purim.
Queen Esther’s image is ubiquitous in the collective Jewish consciousness, not only as the character in the Purim story who outwitted the villain Haman in order to save the Jewish people from annihilation, but as a symbol of a strong and intelligent woman. JNS.org presents a sampling of modern-day women who, like Esther before them, have left a significant mark on society.
As February turns to March on the Gregorian calendar this year, the Hebrew month of Adar Aleph transitions into Adar Bet, which began March 3. The incidence of a second Adar, representing a Jewish leap year, comes up seven times every 19 years on the Hebrew calendar. Traditional lore attributes the standardization of the Hebrew calendar—in which the months represent the course of the moon, but must be aligned with the seasons of the year—to Hillel II, the leader of the Jewish Sanhedrin in the 4th century, but experts believe the evolution of the calendar was much more gradual.
Israelis take Purim seriously—kids get the day off school, many towns put on a lively Purim parade, and the streets are filled with people of all ages running about in costumes. But all these items add up, and Purim can be a costly event. For the one third of all Israeli children who live in poverty, Purim wouldn’t be Purim without the help of an array of non-profit organizations who take the holiday’s other mitzvah—gifts for the poor, or "matanot l’evyonim"—to heart.
The names of religious holidays are usually fairly straightforward, pointing us to the central symbol or theme of the festival. Pesach refers to the ancient lamb offering, the korban pesach; Shavuot, meaning “weeks,” points to the careful counting of seven weeks that precede it; and Sukkot are the booths that Jews inhabit while celebrating the holiday of that name. But just what is the name “Purim” all about?
In time for Purim 2014, popular Israeli-Canadian singer Naftali Kalfa seeks to give everyday relevance to the Jewish holiday’s age-old story with his recently released single “Miracles.” Kalfa explains that the song, part of his new album “The Naftali Kalfa Project,” not only focuses on Purim and the other miracles throughout Jewish history, but also seeks to “inspire us to think about the small miracles which happen in this world every single day.”
We all recognize that poppy seed or jam taste when we bite into hamantaschen on Purim every year. But given the right filling, or dough, the traditional pastry has a lot more to offer. Jamie Geller, hailed as the “Queen of Kosher” and the “Jewish Rachael Ray,” best-selling author Jamie Geller, recommends creative hamantaschen including cardamom scented hamantaschen with pear & goat cheese filling, stuffed hamantaschen challah, and gingerbread hamantaschen with spiced apple filling.