Posted on March 24th, 2016 by Rachel
Whenever I find myself blogging about a Jewish holiday (whether volunteer or voluntold), I always start with Seasons of Our Joy by Baltimore-native Arthur Waskow.
Seasons of our Joy
When I reviewed that go-to text on Purim, I was struck by this passage on page 118:
“The custom grew of making Purim-Torah—parodying the prayers themselves on Purim night, parodying the rabbis’ Talmudic debates and discussions over how to apply Torah to life-dilemmas.”
And then a few pages later, Waskow writes that in some congregations, after the megillah is read, a “Purim-rabbi—a mock rabbi chosen for the occasion—might give a sermon that pokes fun at established traditions and institutions.”
This idea of a Purim-authority who is a parody of authority, really struck me. In this season of American electoral politics, I suddenly realized that I am waiting for the Purim-candidates to yield the stage to the real candidates. They’re not going anywhere.
Large wooden gragger (noisemaker for Purim), made from solid wood pieces, c. 1900. This gragger was found in the basement of a Highlandtown rowhouse on Fairmont Ave. JMM 1999.162.1
But that’s one of the points that Purim makes, isn’t it? It’s the holiday on which we are commanded to get so drunk that we cannot discern the difference between “blessed be Mordechai” and “cursed be Haman.” But maybe the drunkenness is necessary only to get us to drop our inhibitions that create the difference in the first place. Maybe the equality is always there for us to see, if only we could (indeed, Rabbi Waskow points out that using gematria, the two phrases are equivalent).
And see it we must, as a later passage made plain to me:
When the original history happened, the sublime liberation of Exodus came long before the farce of Purim. But when we finish living that history and begin to learn it, absorb it into our lives, digest it so that we can make a holy future, then it may be important for us to laugh first, to let the farce come first. For power is funny, and those who hold power are ridiculous. The first stage of liberation is that we learn to laugh at them.
But power is also profound, and liberation is also at the root of all the universe. Having learned to laugh, we become ready to seek our freedom seriously. There is a time laugh—and then there is a time to ask questions. (page 127)
Today, for Purim, we eat and we drink to excess. We poke fun at everything—especially authority. And Rabbi Waskow is right. If we can see the ridiculousness in authority, we can hope to challenge it when it oversteps its bounds. And so, with my mouth full of the taste of hamentaschen, wine, and laughter, I for one, am looking ahead to what will be needed to stand up to Pharoah, to choose right over comfort, and to leave my mitzrayim, my narrow place. I am putting on the costume of Esther’s bravery not to pretend to be something I am not, but to practice being something I know I am.
Pre- School Purim March 1974. JCC Collection, JMM 2006.13.1063
And so, dear friends, I leave you with this blessing: may we all use the foolishness of Purim to uncover the righteousness that is already in the world and in us, waiting to be exalted, and may “the memory of Purim never cease from among us.”
A blog post by Associate Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.
Posted on March 24th, 2014 by Rachel
It all started with a lunch time conversation between Esther, Jobi, Sylvia (one of our volunteers), and myself. It was two or three weeks before Purim, and we were discussing all the different types of hamantaschen and debating their merits. Should one use cake dough or cookie dough? Is chocolate an acceptable filling? (the consensus on that last one was “no.”) And most importantly, of our own individual recipes for hamantaschen, whose was the best?
Then Sylvia said the fateful words: “You know there is only way to decide this, right? You have to have a hamantaschen bake off!”
We immediately knew that she was right. Esther, Jobi, and I quickly drew up some rules and guidelines for the contest and sent out an email to the staff, encouraging them and their volunteers to participate. The date was set for the Thursday following Purim to allow ample time for preparation.
Over the weekend of Purim, I camped out at my parents’ house so my mother could help me recreate her mother’s recipe. All Friday and Saturday, we bent over circles upon circles of dough, spooning lekvar or apricot jam into them and folding them into little triangles. (Funny story: having only ever heard my Bubby, who had a very strong Newark accent, say the word “lekvar,” I could never tell—until just now—if the word was supposed to be pronounced “lekvah” or “lekvar.” Fortunately, that’s what Google is for.) The process was a bittersweet one for us this year. My Bubby died a year last Sunday, and for the last ten or more years of her life, she’d always come down to Baltimore to stay with us over Purim, and we’d make hamantaschen together. It felt very appropriate to commemorate the anniversary by making hamantaschen together.
The author making hamantaschen
Last Thursday, the day of the contest, four very different plates of hamantaschen made by two staff members and two volunteers entered the doors of the JMM. We had decided to make everything anonymous: nobody except for the competitors knew who had made the hamantaschen, and judging was open to anyone who wanted to participate. We were surprised by just how different each batch was: besides my very traditional lekvar (prune and raisin) and apricot hamantaschen, there were blueberry hamantaschen with dough that had a texture similar to scones, a batch that had a prune and mun (poppy seed) filling that tasted a bit like fig, and a very experimental batch with crispy chocolate dough filled with cream cheese and chocolate chips! All were delicious in their own way.
The tasting begins!
The votes are cast!
At first, it seemed that the chocolate/cream cheese hamantaschen were in the lead because we couldn’t stop talking about them. But when the judging had finished, and we tallied the votes, the dark horse blueberry hamantaschen came in first! The chocolate ones came in as a close second, and the prune/mun and the lekvar/apricot ones tied for third.
At this point, we revealed the bakers:
The winning blueberry hamantaschen were made by none other than docent Robyn Hughes!
The chocolate and cream cheese hamantaschen were made by our Marketing and Development Manager, Rachel Kassman.
The prune and mun hamantaschen were made by archives volunteer Dana Willan.
And, of course, the lekvar and apricot hamantaschen were made by me.
Congratulations and Mazel Tov to Robyn Hughes, who gets the glory and bragging rights for making the best hamantaschen…until next year!
Thank you to everyone who participated, both has bakers and judges!
A blog post by Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik. To read more posts by Abby, click HERE.
Posted on November 27th, 2012 by Rachel
The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contactJobi Zink, Senior Collections Manager and Registrar at 410.732.6400 x226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times: March 30, 2012
PastPerfect Accession #: 1992.108.40
Status: Unidentified – do you know these Purim play performers?