All about identity at Esther’s Place this Purim

Posted on February 28, 2019 by

A blog post by JMM Office Manager and Shop Assistant Jessica Konigsberg. For more posts from Jessica, click HERE.


When envisioning our 2019 Esther’s Place Purim celebration within the programming year ahead, it occurred to me that Purim (March 20 – 21 this year) is a celebration of identity and story—two themes that resonate across our upcoming exhibits and programs.

Last year, Purim was new to me so I wrote about our Esther’s Place noisemakers (or groggers), intended to drown out the name of villain Haman during the reading of the Book of Esther of Megillah. This year, I’m keen to learn about the creative, personal aspects of the holiday—the costumes, the lessons, the big themes—and how these fit into our work at JMM.

Storytelling is an evergreen theme at JMM and Esther’s Place. And March is National Reading Month—a fine time to stop by Esther’s Place Shop and explore our selection of engaging titles featuring characters ranging from the mischievous “Five Little Gefiltes” to the tenacious suffragists of Elaine Weiss’s The Woman’s Hour.

Celebrate National Reading Month this March at Esther’s Place at JMM.

Stories captivate our hearts and imaginations because they often contain struggles and triumphs, heroes and villains, honorable and wicked intentions, bravery, loyalty, secrecy, sacrifice, and difficult decisions. They can comfort and inspire, distract and entertain, and allow audiences to safely try on new ideas and identities. For young children, storytelling through dramatic play fosters understanding of the world and themselves.

The Purim story takes place in ancient Persia where a Jewish woman named Esther is chosen against her will as Queen to the King Ahasuerus. Mordecai, a Jewish man who raised Esther, angers Ahasuerus’s Prime Minister Haman by refusing to bow before him, and Haman responds by plotting a violent revenge against the Jewish people. Esther bravely exposes her Jewish identity and successfully appeals to the King, saving her people.

The Purim story abounds with concealed identities, dramatic revelations, and miracles disguised as ordinary events. And in keeping with the theme of hiding, children and adults often celebrate Purim by wearing costumes and concealing their identities as Esther did.

Costumes offer new, temporary identities but still reveal truths about the wearer. In April, we’ll explore how we telegraph our identities through fashion and clothing with new exhibit Fashion Statement. What are some of your favorite Purim costumes from years past and what did they reveal (or hide) about you?

I remember learning in elementary school that good stories typically feature a dramatic complication followed by a satisfying resolution. Purim seems to be a holiday celebrating this triumphant resolution. In reality, we might be at the beginning of a story, or perhaps in the middle—but once a year for those who observe, the chance comes to make noise; don new identities; and celebrate victory, diversity, and strong women (yes!).

Here are just some of the fun items available at Esther’s Place this Purim, perfect for dramatizing the Purim story, and engaging the young Purim revelers in your lives.

We offer numerous identity-inspired items that make excellent Purim host gifts. Celebrate a shared identity with our funny custom Jewish Baltimore souvenirs or delightful Mah-jongg products, including key rings with your favorite tiles! We also have a great selection of cookbooks and other thoughtful items to provide inspiration for Purim gift baskets.

And our selection of children’s books and toys offer great inspiration for costumes!

I wish all who celebrate Purim a joyful holiday that is also creative, inclusive, playful, and surprising. And make sure to stop by and ask our staff and volunteers for their National Reading Month recommendations this March!

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