For the first time since the start of the pandemic, celebrations for the Jewish holiday Purim kicked off nearly completely in person on March 16. Last year, celebrations consisted of a combination of in-person and remote events.
Purim is a Jewish holiday that is celebrated annually commemorating the saving of the Jewish people from a plot to kill all of ancient Persia’s Jewish subjects. Celebrations for the holiday often include the tradition of reading the Book of Esther –– a book of the Hebrew Bible –– giving charity, dressing in costume and sending food packages to family members and friends.
As a return to normalcy, Roitman Chabad Center at Cornell hosted its annual in-person Purim party, themed “Purim Under the Sea.” This gathering consisted of reading the Book of Esther, followed by food, refreshments and socialization with peers.
Both online and in-person Megillah readings and holiday meals occurred on Wednesday and Thursday of last week, offering students an opportunity to participate in the holiday.
Raquel Zohar ’23 currently serves as Chabad’s undergraduate student board president and describes her goal of engaging with all four mitzvot, or commandments to fulfill on Purim. She credited her achievement to Chabad.
“I heard Megillah twice at Chabad, I partook in the seudah Chabad hosted on Thursday afternoon, I gave what I could to a Ukrainian relief fund,” Zohar said. “I delivered Mishloach Manot [which are Purim gift baskets] to Provost Kotlikoff and VP of Student Relations Malina on behalf of Chabad.”
While she did not dress up, Zohar explained that Chabad had made accessories available in the spirit of Purim.
To stick with the Cornell student tradition of Wednesday night fishbowls at Level B, Liana Maza ’24 describes that Chabad hosted a fishbowls-themed “Under the Sea” Purim party on Wednesday night in which students over the age of 21 were able to drink fishbowl refreshments.
While Maza is under 21 and unable to participate in the fishbowls portion of the event, she describes that in the spirit of Purim, she decided to dress up as a Cornell cheerleader for this event.
“I bought a cheerleading costume along with pom-poms and put on a good amount of red and sparkly makeup to complete the look. It was a lot of fun!” Maza said.
Zohar, who also attended the event, described her experience as beautiful because of the sheer number of people who turned out to hear Megillah and celebrate Purim Under the Sea.
In addition to all of the celebrations hosted by Chabad, Cornell Hillel offered students the opportunity to participate in various events, one being a carnival.
Simone Shteingart ’24, vice president of engagement at Cornell Hillel describes that she organized a carnival in Willard Straight on March 16 in which hamentashen — a triangular pocket filled pastry — were sold, raising proceeds to support an organization called Hamantaschen for Ukraine.
In the spirit of Purim, Shteingart added, approximately 30 percent of the students at the carnival were dressed up.
“Some people wore onesies, while some people went more full out,” Shteingart said.