JBuzz News March 31, 2012: Tulane University to upgrade its Jewish studies program to full department status




Tulane University to upgrade its Jewish studies program

Source: New Orleans Times-Picayune, 3-31-12

Tulane University, already one of the nation’s most attractive secular universities for Jewish students, has decided to upgrade its three-decade-old Jewish studies program to full department status, the university announced.

Beginning in mid-summer, the new department can add its own faculty and acquire a freer hand in cultivating its academic specialty, the modern Jewish experience, said Michael Cohen, its director.

In one sense, the change is evolutionary.

Tulane has promoted Jewish studies since the early 1980s.

It already grants bachelor of arts degrees in the field, and has about 30 majors, a third higher than just two years ago, Cohen said.

Today it operates with three full-time faculty members, but without the standing of a full academic department.

Under the less-robust standing as a Jewish studies program, students took courses from a few program faculty, supplemented with Jewish-themed courses in other departments: history, English, political science and so on, Cohen said.

That will continue, but the faculty will be beefed up by at least two additional professors the new department will hire on its own over the next year or two, Cohen said.

The new department will also have the long-term independence to develop its specialty on the Jewish experience in the modern world.

tulane-hanukkah-menorah.jpgView full sizeMichael DeMocker, The Times-Picayune archiveTulane University students holding candles look up at the flame lit at sundown on a giant menorah behind the Lavin-Bernick Center to mark the first night of Hanukkah in 2010.

Its first chairman will be Brian Horowitz, a specialist in Eastern European Jewish literature and history now on sabbatical.

Like most of the other 55 or so Jewish studies centers at American universities, Tulane’s approach is secular, not religious, Cohen said.

“We explore the Jewish experience from multiple angles: literature, political science, Middle Eastern politics.”

The program’s elevation to department status by vote of the College of Liberal Arts faculty says that “Jewish studies is not an afterthought. It’s a strong part of a liberal arts education, that to look at the Jewish experience from various viewpoints is important and productive,” Cohen said.

Last year Reform Judaism Magazine’s annual college edition reported that with a Jewish enrollment of about 32 percent of its student body, Tulane ranked ninth in the country among public and private universities in that category. It ranked No. 1 among secular universities with more than 5,000 students.

Cohen said that percentage of Jewish enrollment has probably climbed since Hurricane Katrina.

“Since then, I think the type of Jewish student at Tulane tends to be more Jewishly engaged. That stems from our focus on service here.

“People know that they’re coming down here to rebuild New Orleans as part of their Tulane education.”

JBuzz March 23, 2012: Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi: Haggadah and History — Historical Passover Haggadahs




Long before the Maxwell House Haggadah, thousands of other versions retold Passover story

Source: JointMedia News Service, 3-23-12

<br /> A page reprinted from a Cairo volume Agudat Perahim (1922) which also includes the Passover haggadah. This illustration depicts an Arabic translation of the festive song &ldquo;Dayenu.&rdquo;<br /> Photo reprinted from “Haggadah and History” by Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, JewishPublication Society of America, 1975.

A page reprinted from a Cairo volume Agudat Perahim (1922) which also includes the Passover haggadah. This illustration depicts an Arabic translation of the festive song “Dayenu.” Photo reprinted from “Haggadah and History” by Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Jewish Publication Society of America, 1975. For the past three years, President Obama and his family have hosted a Passover Seder in the White House for a select group of invited guests, both Jewish and non-Jewish. A Maxwell House haggadah — probably the most widely used Passover Seder text among American Jews — was placed at each table.

The haggadah (the Hebrew word means “telling”) has a venerable and remarkably varied history, which long precedes the often wine-splotched classic published by the coffee maker. Scholars have identified more than 3500 extant editions and there is hardly a Jewish community in the world that has not produced its own haggadah. Although the earliest manuscripts have been lost, the oldest complete text was found in a prayer book compiled by the philosopher and rabbinic scholar Saadia Gaon during the 10th century.

The haggadah reportedly emerged as an independent volume during the 15th century. Some scholars speculated about the origins of an edition that was published in Guadalajara, Spain, in 1482, but the publication location has never been confirmed nor has it been definitively established as the first separately-published haggadah.

In 1486, the Soncinos, a noted Italian Jewish family of printers, published a siddur to which a haggadah was bound. Although it is not known whether such binding was common during this time, some historians consider this Soncino volume a separate and independent work.

The history of haggadahs and the Soncino edition is recounted in an erudite and elegant 1975 volume entitled Haggadah and History.

Written by the late Harvard professor Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, this work traces the evolution of this classic Passover text, which reflects the variegated and tumultuous history of the Jewish people.

Most of this nearly 500-page work contains reprinted haggadah pages from around the world. The range of publishing locations and languages employed is remarkable: a Poona, India, text was published in the Indian language Marathi; the Istanbul, Turkey, edition is bilingual, written in Ladino and Hebrew; a Tel Aviv haggadah in Hebrew was produced in pre-state Palestine.

Also depicted is an unusual item: a parody of the haggadah. Published in Odessa, Russia, in 1885, this text used the Four Questions to highlight the poor pay and treatment of east European elementary school teachers, comparing their plight to that of Israelite slaves in Egypt!

Yerushalmi notes that only 25 haggadahs were published during the 16th century, but the production increased to 234 in the 18th century and more than 1200 during the 19th.

Although this Passover text has been published for more than 600 years, the majority of individual editions were issued in the last century. Early haggadahs featured handdrawn illustrations and in more recent times, pictures were inserted to stimulate the “curiosity of the children…[and served] as a lively medium of visual instruction, much like today’s picture books,” Yerushalmi writes.

The Sarajevo haggadah is the most famous such work, a beautifully illustrated text originating in Barcelona in the 14th century, smuggled out of Spain during the Inquisition, transported to Italy and eventually ending up in the former Yugoslavia. Unlike many Jews, the Sarajevo haggadah somehow survived the Nazi onslaught. The remarkable story of its survival has been evocatively told in the novel People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks, and in a network television documentary.

The Birds’ Head Haggadah, the oldest surviving Ashkenazi illuminated manuscript, was produced in Germany during the 14th century. This strikingly beautiful volume derives its name from the birdlike human figures depicted in the margins. Scholars claim that this animal motif is related to the Second Commandment that prohibits the creation of graven images. In lieu of drawing a human figure, the volume depicts distorted heads of birds, often wearing a headpiece and other garments.

The Sarajevo Haggadah is permanently displayed in the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina while the Birds’ Head Haggadah is found in the Israel Museum. Unlike the ever present and dependable Maxwell House haggadah found at many Seders, these precious volumes are securely spared from matzoh crumbs, spilled wine and drippings of horseradish.

On This Day in Jewish History March 16, 1190: 822 years after some 150 Jews were massacred in York’s Clifford Tower




Centuries later, York comes to terms with the worst anti-Semitic attack in Britain

Now, 822 years after some 150 Jews were massacred in York’s Clifford Tower, a commemoration hopes to dispel the myth of the Cherem of York – the prohibition of resettling the city since the mass-murder.

Source: Haaretz, 3-16-12

Eight hundred and twenty-two years after some 150 Jews were massacred in York’s Clifford Tower, the most comprehensive commemoration of the worst anti-Semitic attack in the British Isles will take place today (Friday) in England’s ancient Capital of the North. The event will be the culmination of an academic project chronicling the York Massacre using advanced technology and dispel, the organizers hope, one of the most pervasive myths of Anglo Jewry, that of the Cherem of York – the prohibition of resettling the city following the mass-murder of its Jews.

Clifford’s Tower, also known as York Castle, is the most distinct landmark dominating the city’s skyline and has served for centuries as York’s symbol. First built as a Norman fort in 1068, it has been rebuilt many times and served as a military keep, prison, law court and today serves as a museum, but the only mention of the most bloody episode in its nine and a half centuries of history is a plaque at the foot of the tower unveiled by the Chief Rabbi of Britain and the Lord Mayor of York in 1978.

York - IPUP York Image Galleries - March 16, 2012 Professor Helen Weinstein at the plaque commemorating the massacre.
Photo by: IPUP York Image Galleries

The York Massacre was just one of a wave of anti-Jewish riots that began eight months earlier at the coronation banquet of King Richard I, when a group of Jews who arrived to pay their respects were forbidden entry. Despite being under the King’s protection, the Jews who had prospered for over a century as money-lenders, became the target for attacks by local noblemen who were anxious to wipe out their large debts. Murderous attacks began in London and spread to other Jewish settlements throughout England.

Richard, who had initially humiliated the Jews at his coronation, was concerned that the attacks were a challenge to his own rule and had a number of the perpetrators executed, while issuing orders to protect the Jews. This, however, put him on a collision course with the church, which he was eager to appease, and in early 1190 the new king embarked on a crusade to the Holy Land while not taking measures to enforce his order. The riots reached the northern towns of Norwich, Lincoln and Stamford in March; homes of Jews in York were attacked, forcing the 150 Jews of the town to take refuge in the royal castle. But as there was no force defending the tower, and the local knights and clergy were leading the attack, the Jews preferred to kill themselves rather than accept forced baptism. Those who did not commit suicide were killed when the castle was set on fire.

The rioters next burned all the records of the Jews financial affairs, thereby absolving them of their debts which would have been payable to the King following the death of the Jews.

The King’s representatives held an inquest and fined the city, but none of the murderers were ever brought to trial, many of them later joining Richard on his crusade.
No memory was left in the city of the killings, but archaeological digs have revealed burnt remnants of the original structure beneath the tower.

“When I first arrived in York in 2006,” says Professor Helen Weinstein, “as a Jew I was shocked to find that there was almost no public reference to the massacre.” Weinstein, who had arrived at the University of York as the founding director of its Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past (IPUP) had of course heard of the massacre – her grandmother had even warned her that there was a Cherem, a rabbinical prohibition from living in York, and she took it upon herself to assemble a modern narrative….READ MORE

JBuzz News March 15, 2012: Jonathan Sarna: Barach College Jewish Studies Center Presents ‘General Ulysses S. Grant and the Jews’




Jewish Studies Center Presents ‘General Ulysses S. Grant and the Jews’ with Jonathan Sarna

Source:  EON: Enhanced Online News, 3-15-12

On March 21, 2012, The Jewish Studies Center at Baruch presents a talk entitled “General Ulysses S. Grant and the Jews” with featured speaker Dr. Jonathan Sarna. The event is scheduled at 1 p.m. in Engelman Recital Hall, located on the first floor of the Newman Vertical Campus, 55 Lexington Avenue.

Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant

“the single best description of American Judaism during its 350 years on American soil.”

Dr. Sarna is the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University and Chief Historian of the new National Museum of American Jewish History. Dubbed by the Forward newspaper in 2004 as one of America’s 50 most influential American Jews, he was Chief Historian for the 350th commemoration of the American Jewish community, and is recognized as a leading commentator on American Jewish history, religion and life. Dr. Sarna has written, edited, or co-edited more than twenty books, including the Jews and the Civil War: A Reader and A Time to Every Purpose: Letters to a Young Jew. He is best known for the acclaimed American Judaism: A History. Winner of the Jewish Book Council’s “Jewish Book of the Year Award” in 2004, it has been praised as being “the single best description of American Judaism during its 350 years on American soil.”

The discussion is co-sponsored by Baruch’s Alumni Relations Office and the Office of College Advancement. For more information, contact Jessica Lang, Director of the Jewish Studies Center, at (646) 312-3975 or jessica.lang@baruch.cuny.edu.

Israel Brief March 8, 2012: Purim revelers party, observe holiday nationwide in Israel



Purim revelers party, observe holiday nationwide

Festivals ranging from Tel Aviv’s zombie march to Holon’s annual Adlayada color city streets as Israeli celebrate Purim.

Source: JPost, 3-8-12

Purim costumes
By Courtesy Marom Communications

Purim is a holiday that Israelis of all ages and levels of religious observance can and do enjoy. The holiday celebrations extend from before the holiday itself, well into the weekend where parties will continue to rage for those waiting for the pending workweek to end.

Children across the country arrived to school on Wednesday – the night when the holiday began – and Thursday donning technicolor costumes both of tradition holiday characters like Queen Esther and the evil Persian Haman , and more modern characters that would not seem out of place in a Halloween parade in the United States.

Israelis revel in Purim, 2012    

Reuters/Ronen Zvulun 
Ultra-Orthodox in Bnei Brak read the Megilla

Ultra-Orthodox men unroll a segment of Esther’s megilla (scroll) to commemorate Purim.

Reuters/Nir Elias 
Schoolchildren in Tel Aviv wear costumes for Purim

Schoolchildren parade around wearing their costumes outside the Bialik Rogozin school in south Tel Aviv.

REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun 
A worker walks by Holon Purim Adlayada floats

The 20th annual Holon Adlayada, Israel’s largest Purim parade, focused this year on the Tastes of Childhood.

Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post 
Haredi teen looks for Purim mask in Mea Shearim

A haredi (ultra-Orthodox) teen surveys possible costumes ahead of Purim.

Reuters/Amir Cohen 
Youths take part in annual Tel Aviv Zombia march

Revelers join in the Zombi march, an annual festival in Tel Aviv that precedes Purim.

Israel Sun/Ricardo Malaccao 
Youths take part in annual Tel Aviv Zombia march

Youths in Tel Aviv get dressed up for the annual Zombie march on Tuesday.

Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post 
Constumed children celebrate Purim in Mea Shearim

Children in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood don their costumes in school.

Yossi Zliger 
Haredi man divvies Mishloah Manot in Beit Shemesh

A haredi (ultra-Orthodox) man hands out Mishloah Manot, Purim gift baskets in Ramat Beit Shemesh.

As part of the holiday, some observers hand out Misholoah Manot, Purim baskets that are meant to signify goodwill and a holiday that leaves no one underfed.

A number of festival parades and marches took place across the country, with revelers dressing up as zombies in Tel Aviv, and festival-goers in Holon joining the 20th annual Adlayada, this year centered around the Tastes of Childhood theme.

In Tel Aviv, an alternative Adlayada was organized by some members of last summer’s social protest movement, adopting politicized costumes that, while they conveyed a message, still kept to the holiday’s more jovial essence.

JBuzz Features March 7, 2012: Purim Guides, Megillah, the Story, Laws & Recipes




Purim Guides, Megillah, the Story, Laws & Recipes

Purim Sameach!


Source: Aish.com


Source: Chabad.org

Purim WizardPurim Wizard
Walk Through the Holiday Step-by-Step

The MegillahThe Megillah
Telling the Story

With CommentaryMegillah With Commentary—Side by Side Version

The Basic Purim StoryThe Basic Purim Story

The characters of the Purim story come alive in this brief rendition of the miraculous tale. See G-d’s delivering hand veiled behind a fascinating story of palace intrigue…

Complete Story of PurimThe Complete Story of Purim

The Scroll of Esther tells the story of Purim, but many of the details appear only in the oral tradition handed down through the generations by the Sages.

Pre-Purim ObservancesPre-Purim Observances


Walled CitiesWalled Cities
Why Jerusalem celebrates a day later

Laws & LoreLaws & Lore
From the classic work Sefer Hatodaah

Purim 2012 Guide

Source: Chabad.org

The festival of Purim is celebrated every year on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar (late winter/early spring). It commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from Haman’s plot “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day.”

The story in a nutshell:

The Persian empire of the 4th century BCE extended over 127 lands, and all the Jews were its subjects. When Persia had his wife, Queen Vashti, executed for failing to follow his orders, he orchestrated a beauty pageant to find a new queen. A Jewish girl, Esther, found favor in his eyes and became the new queen—though she refused to divulge the identity of her nationality.

Meanwhile, the anti-Semitic Haman was appointed prime minister of the empire. Mordechai, the leader of the Jews (and Esther’s cousin), defied the king’s orders and refused to bow to Haman. Haman was incensed and convinced the king to issue a decree ordering the extermination of all the Jews on the 13th of Adar—a date chosen by a lottery Haman made.

Mordechai galvanized all the Jews, convincing them to repent, fast and pray to G‑d. Meanwhile, Esther asked the king and Haman to join her for a feast. At the feast, Esther revealed to the king her Jewish identity. Haman was hanged, Mordechai was appointed prime minister in his stead, and a new decree was issued—granting the Jews the right to defend themselves against their enemies.

On the 13th of Adar the Jews mobilized and killed many of their enemies. On the 14th of Adar they rested and celebrated.

Note! If you live in Jerusalem, the Purim laws vary; click here for details.

1) Listen to the Megillah

To relive the miraculous events of Purim, listen to the reading of the Megillah (the Scroll of Esther) twice: once on Purim eve, Wednesday night, March 7, and again on Purim day, March 8.

To properly fulfill the mitzvah, it is crucial to hear every single word of the Megillah.

At certain points in the reading where Haman’s name is mentioned, it is customary to twirl graggers (Purim noisemakers) and stamp one’s feet to “eradicate” his evil name. Tell the children that Purim is the only time when it’s a mitzvah to make noise!

2) Give to the Needy (Matanot LaEvyonim)

Concern for the needy is a year-round responsibility; but on Purim it is a special mitzvah to remember the poor.

Give charity to at least two (but preferably more) needy individuals on Purim day, March 8.

The mitzvah is best fulfilled by giving directly to the needy. If, however, you cannot find poor people, place at least two coins into a charity box. As with the other mitzvahs of Purim, even small children should be taught to fulfill this mitzvah.

3) Send Food Portions to Friends (Mishloach Manot)

On Purim we emphasize the importance of Jewish unity and friendship by sending gifts of food to friends.

On Purim day, March 8, send a gift of at least two kinds of ready-to-eat foods (e.g., pastry, fruit, beverage) to at least one friend. Men should send to men and women to women. It is preferable that the gifts be delivered via a third party. Children, in addition to sending their own gifts of food to their friends, make enthusiastic messengers.

4) Eat, Drink and Be Merry

Purim should be celebrated with a special festive meal on Purim day, at which family and friends gather together to rejoice in the Purim spirit. It is a mitzvah to drink wine or other inebriating drinks at this meal.

Special Prayers (Al HaNissim, Torah reading)

On Purim we include the Al HaNissim prayer, which describes the Purim miracle, in the evening, morning and afternoon prayers, as well as in the Grace After Meals. In the morning service there is a special reading from the Torah scroll in the synagogue (Exodus 17:8–16).

Purim Customs: Masquerades and Hamantashen

A time-honored Purim custom is for children to dress up and disguise themselves—an allusion to the fact that the miracle of Purim was disguised in natural garments. This is also the significance behind a traditional Purim food, the hamantash—a pastry whose filling is hidden within a three-cornered crust.

Pre- and Post-Purim Observances:

Torah Reading of “Zachor”

On the Shabbat before Purim (this year, March 3), a special reading is held in the synagogue. We read the Torah section called Zachor (“Remember”), in which we are enjoined to remember the deeds of (the nation of) Amalek (Haman’s ancestor) who sought to destroy the Jewish people.

The Fast of Esther

To commemorate the prayer and fasting that the Jewish people held during the Purim story, we fast on the day before Purim. This year we fast on Wednesday, March 7. The fast begins approximately an hour before sunrise, and lasts until nightfall. Click here for exact times for your location.

The “Half Coins” (Machatzit Hashekel)

It is a tradition to give three coins in “half” denominations—e.g., three half-dollar coins—to charity, to commemorate the half-shekel that each Jew contributed as his share in the communal offerings in the time of the Holy Temple. This custom, usually performed in the synagogue, is done on the afternoon of the “Fast of Esther,” or before the reading of the Megillah.

Shushan Purim

In certain ancient walled cities—Jerusalem is the primary example—Purim is observed not on the 14th of Adar (the date of its observance everywhere else) but on the 15th of Adar. This is to commemorate that fact that in the ancient walled city of Shushan, where the battles between the Jews and their enemies extended for an additional day, the original Purim celebration was held on the 15th of Adar.

The 15th of Adar is thus called “Shushan Purim,” and is a day of joy and celebration also in those places where it is not observed as the actual Purim.

The Purim Story

Is Purim just a fun-filled dress up holiday? Or is it something more? Perhaps it’s a flip-flop, upside-down, full of surprises kind of day…not at all what you’d expect.

Source: Aish.com
Over 2,000 years ago, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. The Jewish people were sent away from the Land of Israel and were forced to live in Babylonia.

Fifty years later, Babylonia was defeated by Persia. Achashverosh (that’s pronounced: Ah-chash-VEY-rosh) was the second Persian king. He ruled 127 provinces from Hodu (India) to Kush (Africa) the largest, strongest kingdom in the world.

A new king needs a new capital, so Achashverosh chose the city of Shushan. To celebrate, he made a tremendous feast for all the important people in the kingdom. It lasted for 180 days. Then he made a second feast just for Shushan. Everyone in the city was invited, even the Jews.

Mordechai, the leader of the Jews, warned his people not to go to the feast, but they were afraid to disobey the king. And to tell the truth, they were honored and pleased to have been invited. For seven days they ate and drank to their heart’s content. Only one thing troubled them. Achashverosh brought the gold and silver vessels from the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and used them for his wild celebration…

The drunken king began to brag that his queen Vashti was the most beautiful woman in the kingdom. On the last day of the feast, he commanded her to come and dance before the crowd. But Vashti was the proud granddaughter of the cruel Nebuchadnezzar and she refused to appear. “Am I a servant to the king?” she asked. In a fit of anger, the king had her killed.

Achashverosh now needed a new queen and he wanted someone even more beautiful than Vashti. His men went from house to house in all of Persia, taking the young girls away to Shushan where they were kept as hostages until they were brought before the king.

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In Shushan, a Jewish orphan by the name of Hadassah lived with her uncle Mordechai. When the king’s men came to her house, Mordechai said, “Don’t be afraid. Go with them. Do not tell them you are a Jewess. Tell them your Persian name — Esther. God will watch over you!”

Esther was kind and gentle and very beautiful. As soon as the king saw her, he chose her as his new queen. Esther appointed seven maidservants, one for each day of the week, so that she would always remember which day was the Sabbath. Her meals were cooked with kosher foods. And all the while, she kept her secret. No one knew she was a Jew. Everyday, Mordechai sat outside the palace gate to wait for news from Esther.

One day outside the palace, Mordechai happened to hear two men plotting to kill the king. He warned Esther and the two men were caught and killed. Although it was recorded in the Royal Book that Mordechai the Jew had saved the king, the matter was soon forgotten.

Soon after, Achashverosh appointed Haman — the richest man in the kingdom — as his new prime minister. All the king’s subjects were ordered to honor Haman and bow down to him. Everyone did, except Mordechai. It was permissible to honor Haman and bow to him as the prime minister, but Haman wore a large medallion, engraved with the picture of an idol, on his chest. Mordechai said people might think he was bowing to the idol too, and a Jew is forbidden to worship or honor idols.

Haman was furious. He went straight to the king to complain. “There is one nation,” he said, “scattered throughout your kingdom, which is different from all other nations. They don’t eat our food, drink our wine, or marry our daughters! They don’t keep the king’s laws and they don’t work! Every seventh day they rest and they are always celebrating holidays. If you give me permission, I will destroy them for you. I will even pay for any expenses from my own money!”

Achashverosh gave Haman his royal ring, to seal the orders and decrees. Anxious to do a perfect job, Haman wanted to execute his plan on the right day, a lucky day blessed by his gods and the stars. He cast lots — purim in Hebrew — to choose the day. Then he sent out letters, sealed with the king’s royal ring, to each of the 127 provinces in the kingdom.

“On the 13th day of the month of Adar,” the decree said “you are to destroy, kill and slaughter all Jews, young and old, women and children, all in one day. Their money and property will then belong to you.”

When Mordechai heard of the decree, he ripped his clothing and put ashes on his head as a sign of mourning. He told Esther she must go to the king to try and save the Jews. Esther was afraid, for it was forbidden to come before the king without being invited. But Mordechai said, “Who knows if you have not been put in the palace for this very purpose? If you are silent now, help will come to the Jews from some other place — and you will perish!”

Esther asked that the Jews in Shushan fast and pray for her for three days. Mordechai gathered all the Jewish children in Shushan and told them to pray, too. (In the end, it was the prayers of the children which were answered.)

The Jews finally realized they should not have gone to the king’s feast; they should not have eaten at the royal banquet nor drunk the wine, nor used the vessels from the Holy Temple. They understood that this was their punishment for fearing the king more than they feared God.

When the three days of prayers and fasting were over, Esther went to the king. “What is your request, my queen?” he asked. “Half of my kingdom is yours for the asking!”

But Esther asked only that the king and Haman come to a private banquet she was making. At the banquet, Achashverosh asked again, “What is your wish? Whatever you want is yours!” But Esther only invited the king and Haman to a second party. “How strange,” thought the king. But Haman was delighted. On his way out of the palace, he passed Mordechai at the gate. His delight turned to hate. “I am important enough to be invited to the queen’s private banquets together with the king — and that Jew refuses to bow down to me?!” He wanted to kill Mordechai then and there, without waiting for the 13th of Adar!

“Do it!” advised his evil wife Zeresh. So Haman built a gallows, 50 cubits high, in his own courtyard. He would hang Mordechai at the first opportunity!

That night, the king could not fall asleep. He tossed and turned and finally called for his servant to bring out the Royal Book and read him to sleep. The heavy book fell open to the story of how Mordechai the Jew had warned of the plot against the king and saved the king’s life.

“What reward did the Jew receive?” asked the king.

“None, sir,” was the reply.

“He saved my life and received no reward?!” stormed the king.

Just then, someone knocked. It was Haman, coming for permission to hang Mordechai the Jew. He was in such a hurry he couldn’t even wait for the morning!

“Haman!” thundered the king. “Tell me, what shall be done for a man the king wishes to honor?”

“He must be referring to me,” thought Haman gleefully. “I know just the thing,” he said. “Let him wear the king’s royal robes. Place the king’s royal crown upon his head. Let him ride the king’s royal horse. And let a servant walk before the horse and cry out: Thus shall be done to the man whom the king wishes to honor!”

“Wonderful idea!” cried the Achashverosh. “I shall leave it all to you. Find Mordechai the Jew and do exactly as you described, down to the last detail!”

Haman did as he was commanded, and Mordechai was led with royal honor through the streets of Shushan.

Haman returned home, a bitter, broken man. But he had no time to brood. He had to be at the royal palace in time for the Queen’s second banquet. Once again, the king asked, “What is it you desire, Esther? Why have you invited us here? Speak and it shall be done!”

This time, Esther spoke. “Spare my life,” she cried, “and the lives of my people. We have been sentenced to death!”

“Death? Your people? By whom?” asked the surprised king.

“By an evil and wicked man — by your minister Haman!”

The king was so astounded that he marched out of the room to regain his composure.

Trembling and fearful, Haman threw himself on the queen to beg for mercy. At that very moment, Achashverosh returned.

“What?” he cried. “Do you dare to attack the Queen in my palace? Take him away and hang him!” he shouted.

In the end, Haman was hung on the gallows he himself had built for Mordechai. And Mordechai became the king’s new prime minister in place of Haman!

According to Persian law, it was impossible to change a decree stamped with the royal seal, so the king could not cancel the decree against the Jews. But Mordechai was given the royal signet ring to issue whatever new decrees he could think of to help save the Jews.

Now it was Mordechai’s turn to send out a royal letter. It said: On the 13th of Adar, all the Jews in the kingdom would organize to defend themselves. The Persians were more than happy to listen to Haman and kill Jews, but if the Jews were going to arm themselves and fight back under royal protection, well then, that was another story!

On the 13th of Adar, Jews across the kingdom assembled and defended themselves. Thousands of their enemies were killed, including Haman’s 10 evil sons who were hanged from a tree. Unlike the Persians who planned to take money and property, the Jews took no loot at all. On the 14th of Adar, they gave thanks to God and celebrated.

But in the walled capital city of Shushan, the Jews continued to fight an additional day. On the 15th of Adar the Jews of Shushan celebrated their victory. Therefore we celebrate:

The Fast of Esther on the 13th of Adar

Purim Day on the 14th of Adar

And in the walled city of Jerusalem, the main celebration is:

Shushan Purim on the 15th of Adar.

Esther asked the rabbis to write the story of Purim and include it in the Bible. Scrolls – megillot – were written and sent to the Jews throughout the kingdom. The rabbis commanded the people to keep the holiday of Purim forever as a day of thanksgiving and feasting and joy; of sending gifts to friends and money to the poor. And that is just what the Jewish people have been doing for the past 2,400 years!


1. MEGILLAT ESTHER — we read the story of Purim in the evening and the next day. And whenever Haman is mentioned, we make as much noise as possible to blot out his name and his memory!

2. SENDING GIFTS OF FOOD to at least one friend or relative, because Purim is a time of love and friendship between Jews.

3. GIVING GIFTS OF MONEY TO THE POOR because Purim is a time of sharing and caring and helping.

4. EATING A FESTIVE PURIM MEAL – the special holiday meal eaten on Purim afternoon.

AND DON’T FORGET, PURIM IS COSTUME-TIME! We celebrate how everything can turn upside-down and into something else, and nothing is exactly what it seems to be. So start thinking about who you want to be on Purim!

A joyous Purim to all of you! May Purim – and all other days in the year!– be full of light and gladness, honor and joy, just as it was for the Jewish people in the time of Esther and Mordechai so many years ago.

JBuzz Features March 7, 2012: Six Things You Might Not Know About Purim




Six Things You Might Not Know About Purim

It might not be a High Holy Day, but Purim is certainly one of the most joyful holidays on the Jewish calendar.

Source: Time, 3-7-12

Its Story Is About a Victory Over Jewish Persecution

Francois Langrenee / The Bridgeman Art Library / Getty Images

Francois Langrenee / The Bridgeman Art Library / Getty Images
Esther and Ahasuerus, c. 1775-80 (oil on canvas), Musee des Beaux-Arts, Quimper, France

In the 5th century B.C., as related in the Old Testament’s Book of Esther, Mordecai, a Jew, refused to bow down to an adviser of King Ahasuerus named Haman. Incensed, Haman persuaded the king that Jews were essentially uncontrollable and should be executed en masse. Mordecai’s adopted daughter, Esther, boldly approached the king and suggested all parties meet at a banquet, where she gave an impassioned speech about the goodness of the Jews and Haman’s plot against them. When Haman stumbled near Esther as he pleaded for mercy, the king mistook this as an attack on Esther, and he reversed course by ordering Haman’s execution. The following day was declared a holiday named Purim.

Next: Making Noise in Synagogue Is Encouraged

Making Noise in Synagogue Is Encouraged

Jewish School / The Bridgeman Art Library / Getty Images

Jewish School / The Bridgeman Art Library / Getty Images
Megillah – Scroll of Esther, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel

A principal tradition of Purim is the reading of the Megillah (Book of Esther) during a synagogue service. When the Megillah is read, it is customary to make noise by booing, hissing, or stamping one’s feet to drown out Haman’s name. You can also twirl a traditional noisemaker, called a gragger.

Next: Purim Is Considered the Jewish Mardi Gras

Purim Is Considered the Jewish Mardi Gras

Kitra Cahana / Getty Images

Kitra Cahana / Getty Images

Mishteh – drinking plenty – is on the menu for Purim.  The festival encourages Jews to eat, drink, and be merry, but places emphasis on the imbibing.  Revelers are taught to drink copious amounts of wine, until you can’t tell the difference between “cursed be Haman” and “blessed be Mordecai.”  People with health problems, children, and recovering alcoholics need not follow the letter of the law.

Next: It All Comes Back to Food

It All Comes Back to Food

Steve Cohen / Food Pix / Getty Images

Steve Cohen / Food Pix / Getty Images

Purim begins with a fast on the previous day, in order to commemorate Esther’s fast for three days before she met with the king. After the fast is broken, a grand meal should be enjoyed by all, and a popular dessert to serve is Hamantaschen (“Haman’s ears”), triangle-shaped fruit-filled cookies that represent Haman’s three-cornered hat (though some say, as the name goes, that they represent his ears, or even the dice he cast to determine when the Jews would be executed). Sending food to friends, as well as making a charitable donation, are also prescribed as ways of sharing in the tradition.

Next: Purim Doubles as a Masquerade Party

Purim Doubles as a Masquerade Party

Menahem Kahana / Getty Images

Menahem Kahana / Getty Images
Israeli settlers and children celebrate Purim in Hebron in 2011.

A carnival atmosphere pervades this spring holiday, held on the 14th day of the Hebrew month Adar, which usually falls in February or March. Adults and children alike often go to synagogue in costume. The tradition used to be to dress as figures from the Old Testament, but today anyone from Harry Potter to Dr. Seuss is acceptable. Singing silly songs and acting out Purim plays are also popular activities.

Next: Purim Touched a Nerve With Hitler

JBuzz Op-eds March 7, 2012: Brad Hirschfield: Purim celebrates the good and bad in all of us




Brad Hirschfield: Purim celebrates the good and bad in all of us

Source: WaPo, 3-6-12

Purim 2012 begins at sundown this Wednesday, March 7, and all I can say is thank you God! Of course that’s a bit ironic because despite the fact that both this holiday and its story appear in the Hebrew Bible, God is never mentioned. That’s right, among other reasons to love this holiday is that from its very inception, and to this very day, it could be shared by believers and non-believers alike.

Why is that so important? Maybe it’s the fact that each day brings new stories in which faith and/or faithlessness are used by politicians and their proxies to vilify those who don’t share their beliefs. Perhaps it’s because the language of who is evil and who is good are being used more and more to describe conflicts both at home and abroad. Perhaps it’s simply that I cling to the notion that we don’t have to demean those with whom we have genuine disagreements, or even those with whom we may need to do battle – cultural or physical.

Schoolchildren wear costumes during a parade ahead of the Jewish holiday of Purim outside the Bialik Rogozin school in south Tel Aviv March 6, 2012. At Bialik Rogozin, children of migrant workers and refugees from 48 states are educated alongside native Israelis. (NIR ELIAS – REUTERS)

Whatever the reasons, and it’s actually a combination of all of the above, Purim reminds us of a key insight –one which doesn’t shrink from difference, or even the need to fight existential foes –and it all comes down to knowing that we are one. Even in a world where people speak of good guys and bad guys, sometimes appropriately so, those same people are part of a single human family. Truly knowing that fact should change how we battle, when we battle, how long we battle, etc., whether with words or with weapons….READ MORE

JBuzz News March 1, 2012: Lila Corwin Berman: Collaboration enriches professor’s exploration of the American Jewish experience at Temple’s Feinstein Center for American Jewish History




Collaboration enriches professor’s exploration of the American Jewish experience

Lila Corwin Berman, shown at the 227-year-old Congregation Rodeph Shalom on North Broad Street, examines the American Jewish experience from a historical perspective, bridging religion, politics and questions about identity.

Lila Corwin Berman always has her eyes on bridges, both constructing and deconstructing them. But she’s not an engineer — she’s an historian.

As the new director of Temple’s Feinstein Center for American Jewish History, Berman explores the bridges between academics and practitioners, the past and present, history and politics, religion and identity, and the city and suburbs.

“At the center, we strive to make academic work meaningful by not only serving the scholarly community but also engaging with the public,” said Berman.

Founded in 1990, the Feinstein Center brings together scholars and lay people interested in the American Jewish experience. To that end, the center collaborates regularly with external institutions, such as the Gershman Y and the National Museum of Jewish American History. It also sponsors conferences, fellowships and public events all devoted to new approaches to understanding the many dimensions of Jewish experience in the United States….READ MORE

Arriving at Temple just three years ago from Penn State, Berman spent her first year getting acclimated, but an upcoming symposium titled “The Art of Being Jewish in the City: Aesthetics, Politics and Power” will be the grand finale of a full two years of conferences, events and even a performance focused on Jews and urbanism.

“Temple’s Department of History is an ideal place to locate this type of exploration,” said Berman. “It is full of top-notch urban historians, and a lot of forces in the department intersect around urban questions.”

According to Berman, as Jews were leaving American cities during the post-war period, they were also grappling with being middle class and suburban, and there was a part of them that was staying behind.

“Many of them never left cities in their minds,” she said.

“Through these two-years of programming and upcoming conference, we are asking, ‘How did Jews retain their investment in cities both as part of their identity but also materially, politically and economically?'”

The Art of Being Jewish in the City

How are Jews imagining, funding and creating urban arts and culture for the future?

As the culmination of two years of programming, Temple’s Feinstein Center for American Jewish History is hosting “The Art of Being Jewish in the City,” a day-long symposium exploring arts-led urban development and the role that Jews play in envisioning new forms of urban life.

The symposium invites the public to join in conversation with some of today’s most important urban thinkers.

Thursday, March 15, 9 a.m.- 5:30 p.m.
The Edward H. Rosen Hillel Center for Jewish Life
1441 Norris St. (at corner of N. 15th St.), Philadelphia

The conference is free, but registration is required. Visit www.temple.edu/feinsteinctr/symposium, email feinsteincenter@temple.edu or call 215-204-9553.

JBuzz News March 1, 2012: Eran Kaplan: San Francisco’s only full-time Israel Studies professor gives his first lecture




Bay Area’s only full-time Israel Studies professor gives his first lecture

Source: JWeekly, 3-1-12

Eran Kaplan, the only full-time Israel Studies professor on faculty at a university in the Bay Area, gave his inaugural lecture at San Francisco State University on Feb. 21.

Kaplan was hired in August 2011 as  the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Chair of Israel Studies at SFSU, a position that was endowed in 2008. He also works under the umbrella of the SFSU Jewish Studies department.

Eran Kaplan

Eran Kaplan

His first lecture, “Israel’s Summer of Discontent: Social Protests, Nostalgia and the Future(s) of Zionism,” was a two-hour talk co-sponsored by Lehrhaus Judaica and the JCC of San Francisco, where the lecture took place.After being introduced by SFSU President Robert Corrigan, Kaplan walked students and community members through an analysis of the social protests that shook Israel’s urban centers last  summer.

“I’m interested in seeing if they signify something beyond the immediate demands,” said Kaplan, a Tel Aviv native, in summing up the theme of his lecture. “Israel is one of the most interesting examples of a place that has seen a shift from collectivism and a state-controlled economy to a free-market, individualistic society. In the new century, with the new crises we face, I’m curious if the protests were in part about longing, in a sense, yearning for the security the old system once provided.”

Kaplan came to SFSU following a three-year tenure at Princeton University.

Next semester, he plans to teach classes on the Arab-Israeli conflict, modern Israeli society and Israeli film, he said. He is also helping to arrange visits from Israeli scholars and experts, such as Ha’aretz journalist Avirama Golan, who was in the Bay Area this week speaking at several locations.