Hillel at Ohio University will help students let loose with cookies and costumes Wednesday night in a relaxed celebration of perseverance and faith as they honor the Jewish holiday of Purim.
Purim celebrates the events that transpire in the Megillah, which means “scroll” in Hebrew, or the Book of Esther. In the story, the king of Persia executes his wife for refusing to parade her beauty in front of his male guests and begins to search for a new queen. Meanwhile, an adviser to the king advocates for the mass slaughter of Jewish people because of a disagreement he had with a Jewish man who refused to bow to humans — people of the Jewish faith only bow to God.
Esther, the heroine of the story, becomes the queen. She is a relative of the Jewish man who clashes with the adviser, and she convinces the king to alert the Jewish people of the violent plan, enabling them to fight back and save themselves.
If You Go
What: Purim Costume Party
When: 7 p.m., Wednesday
Where: Hillel at Ohio University, 21 Mill St.
“It’s a complicated story, but I think it’s one that is relevant now, too,” Bree Becker, director of Hillel, said. “This idea that the oppressed can sort of push back. That sometimes the people with the least power can find their way into having access to power.”
In traditional Purim celebrations, many Jewish people will dress up as people from the Megillah. It’s also one of the only days in which cross-dressing is permitted in traditional Judaism, particularly for men.
“In the sort of upending of what the power structure was in that moment, we sort of upend lots of other structures,” Becker said. “You see a lot people trying to make it fun and humorous and punny. And some communities get really into it.”
The Hillel celebration will be a costume party, and attendees will make their own hamantaschen to eat and take home with them. Hamantaschen is a triangle-shaped cookie usually filled with fruit or poppy seed.
Landon Crawford, a freshman studying games and animation, has been helping to plan the Hillel Purim party. He has celebrated Purim every year with his family at home and enjoys the Halloween-like atmosphere of the holiday.
“It’s supposed to be just a celebration,” Crawford said. “It’s a celebration of Jewish life and prosperity.”
At the Purim party, he’ll be dressed as a green Power Ranger and is excited to practice his faith with his peers in college for the first time.
“This is my first time celebrating Purim in a college Jewish community,” Crawford said. “Like celebrating with college students and being with like-minded individuals in this community of learning. So I’m really excited to be in that environment celebrating and practicing Judaism.”
Becker said although Purim is not a major religious holiday, it has become culturally significant as Jewish people have become more integrated among non-Jewish people because of its similarities to Halloween.
“Culturally, it’s a big deal,” she said. “Religiously, it’s a relatively minor holiday.”
Becker said Purim is one of the few real “party holidays” in Judaism. It’s a chance for people to relax and unwind while engaging in traditions that celebrate who they are and how the Jewish people have continued to persevere throughout history.
“I think Jews are sort of constantly celebrating the fact that we’ve made it through another thing where they tried to kill us and they didn’t,” she said. “I think also what we’re celebrating as sort of an underlying layer is that this is not a one-time thing. This is a repeated part of our narrative and here we are, celebrating again.”