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What is Purim?

Purim is one of the most joyous Jewish holidays in the Jewish calendar. The Jewish holiday is celebrated on the 14th and 15th of Adar (the twelfth month of the Jewish calendar), which usually falls in late February or early March. The Purim story commemorates the events described in the biblical Book of Esther, which tells the story of how the Jewish people were saved from a plot to exterminate them in ancient Persia.

The Purim Story

The story of Purim revolves around story of Esther, a Jewish woman who becomes the queen of Persia. When Haman, a high-ranking official in the Persian court, hatches a plot to kill all the Jews in the kingdom, Esther reveals her Jewish identity to her husband, King Ahasuerus, and pleads with him to save her people. With the king’s help, Haman’s plot is thwarted, and the Jews are able to defend themselves against their attackers.

A group of young Jewish displaced persons pose with their JDC-distributed gifts at a Purim party in Munich. JDC Archives 1940

The central theme of Purim is the idea of divine providence – that even when events seem to be working against us, God is always present and working behind the scenes to help us. This is reflected in the name of the festival itself, which comes from the Persian word pur, meaning “lot.” According to the Book of Esther, Haman chose the date for his plot to kill the Jews by casting lots (purim) to determine the most auspicious day.

Purim is celebrated in a number of ways. The festival is traditionally celebrated by the reading of the Megillah, the scroll containing the story of Esther. The Megillah is read in synagogues on the evening of Purim and again on the morning of the holiday. It is customary to make noise whenever the name of Haman is mentioned during the reading, in order to “blot out” his name and symbolically erase his memory.

Another popular custom is the exchange of gifts of food and drink, known as mishloach manot. It is customary to send at least two different kinds of food or drink to at least one other person. The purpose of this custom is to increase feelings of friendship and unity among the Jewish people.

Purim is a joyful celebration. Purim is traditionally celebrated with a festive meal on the afternoon or evening of Purim, and many Jews also celebrate with costume parties and other festive activities. In some communities, it is customary to hold Purimspiels – humorous Purim specific plays or skits that retell the story of Esther in a lighthearted way.

In addition to its historical significance, Purim has important lessons for us today. The festival reminds us of the importance of standing up for what is right, even when it is difficult or unpopular. It also reminds us of the power of faith and the importance of trusting in God’s providence, even in times of darkness and uncertainty.

Overall, Purim is a joyful and meaningful holiday that celebrates the survival and triumph of the Jewish people. It is a time to come together with friends and family, to enjoy good food and drink, and to reflect on the lessons of the past as we look forward to a brighter future.

Winter Survival In Ukraine: How JDC Is Helping Those In Need

Not only does Ukraine have a nearly year-long war to contend with, but it is facing its deadliest winter in years, with the country being frozen for months.

JDC is committed to easing the pressure on Jewish people in the country by providing them with inter-relief aid such as heaters, cooking stoves, sleeping bags for sub-zero temperatures, rechargeable torches, blankets, fleece-lined clothing, wood, coal and energy bill subsidies.

See how we are helping below:

 

Energy supply cuts caused by Russia’s heavy bombardment of the country’s infrastructure are combining with freezing cold winter weather to create a deadly cocktail, the World Health Organization has warned.

“This winter will be life-threatening for millions of people in Ukraine,” according to Dr Hans Henri Kluge, the United Nations health agency’s regional director for Europe.

https://youtu.be/uz6vaU0oByg

In Bulgaria, One Family Opens Their Home (and Their Hearts) to Ukraine’s Jews

When the Ukraine crisis began, Bistra Titeva took her calling as a hospitality professional even more seriously: She and her husband opened their home to a family seeking shelter.

Titeva describes this experience, her connection to the Bulgarian Jewish community, and the responsibility she feels to help the vulnerable in their hour of need,” she recalls.

“It all began that March afternoon, ten days after the conflict began in Ukraine. I was doing some Friday shopping with my husband, Bobby, and purchasing things for the weekend.

“Then, my phone started buzzing: It was Julia Dandolova, the CEO of Shalom, the Organization of Jews in Bulgaria. She told me that a family of five needed accommodation — two parents and three daughters. Would I be able to open my doors to this family in need?

“In truth, we didn’t even need an hour,” she says. “To many people, this choice would be a difficult one, and rightfully so: What’s more personal, more intimate, and more private than opening your home to people you’ve never met?”

Adding: “Sure, this was a big step for Bobby and me. But at the end of the day, the answer was simple: We’d open our doors, open our hearts, and welcome this family in need.”

One Refugee Worker In Moldova Discusses Her Lifesaving Work With Jewish Refugees

Since the war in Liudmila MeSincchina has worked tirelessly as part of JDC’s Ukraine crisis response, bringing food, medicine, and hope to Ukraine’s Jews.

Host. Therapist. Driver. These three terms, and more, described Liudmila when she was Logistics Coordinator at the JDC-supported Dacia Marin refugee centre in Vadul lui Vodă, Moldova.  Now she is revealing the JDC’s refugee response, her own JDC story, and the values that power her life-saving mission.

Here is her story in its entirety:

The refugees arrive without a change of clothes. They are exhausted, angry, and terrified. But I welcome them, make them feel at home, and take care of logistics.

Almost all their stories are the same, aside from small differences. All of them escaped, some with their children and elderly parents. And everyone wants to return home. Like anyone would, they want to get back to a sense of normalcy.

My responsibilities are many: I welcome refugees, distribute food, provide accommodation, and coordinate logistics for people’s eventual departure. Me and my team also provide mental and physical support––some people aren’t mobile–––and entertain the children: Everyone gets individual attention.

We give all we can to ease their pain. I gather clothes and shoes for the children and elderly. And after a few days, they calm down. They see that people like me are here who help, to help process their documents, help purchase their tickets, help with whatever they need, emotional, physical, and spiritual. 

We don’t just treat the whole person––we help their animals, too, if they have them.  Many people bring pets, so we have to help transport them by air. We also give people the contacts of veterinary services which can microchip and vaccinate animals.

I bring more than 15 years of Jewish organizational experience to this work, and, in a strange, imperfect parallel to the people I help, my own pain brought me here.  

It all began at the JDC-supported Kedem Jewish Cultural Center in Chișinău. When he was little, my son enjoyed the kids’ activities there,  and I felt like I wanted to share a part of myself there, too.

Around that time, I had just turned 50, and I had needed cancer surgery. My surgery happened on almost the same day as my 50th. The doctors told me the operation had happened at just the right time. On top of that, my husband and I divorced when my son was four; I raised my little boy on my own a single mother.

Alone and stressed, my Jewish life gave me strength and community. And throughout this time, JDC provided unceasing support. Eventually, I was invited to come work at Kedem. They knew my skillset, and thought I could contribute a lot. I worked my way up to become Kedem’s, Chief Administrator. And since I studied developmental and child psychology, I know how to communicate with people of different ages. I still work there to this day: All’s well that ends well.

This experience has allowed me to give the people here the best possible assistance.

And here in Moldova, we’re seeing the results right in front of our eyes. Thanks to JDC, many people have already left to start new lives. Bit by bit, we have streamlined our system to meet everyone’s needs quickly and effectively. Moving countries is confusing and bureaucratic at the best of times. In the throes of crisis, it feels nearly impossible. 

Luckily, JDC helps people every step of the way. 

At night, my head is full of thoughts about whether people managed to get to their destinations, if they’re safe if they’re happy. I am so glad when they call me with good news. Because of these worries, I can hardly sleep. 

But still, I keep going.

As the Ukraine Conflict Continues, JDC Increase Its Life-Saving Care for Jews and Jewish Refugees in Europe

Ukraine’s vibrant Jewish community is one of the largest in the world, home to an estimated 200,000 Jews prior to the current Ukraine crisis. Since the collapse of communism, JDC has worked across the former Soviet Union (FSU) to save Jewish lives and build Jewish life. In Ukraine alone, JDC has been serving over 42,000 Jewish elderly and 2,500 poor Jewish children and their families through our network of care services, Jewish community programs, and Jewish leaders.

As the world prepares to commemorate one year since the start of the crisis in Ukraine, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) continues expanding its life-saving humanitarian relief efforts for tens of thousands of vulnerable Jews in Ukraine and Jewish refugees in Europe. This includes ever-widening aid to survive the winter months; material support such as food, medicine, housing and utility subsidies; integration support for refugees in European Jewish communities; and trauma support through six trauma centres around Ukraine.

“Although the crisis no longer carries every headline, the most vulnerable Ukrainian Jews –including the elderly, the new poor, the internally displaced, and refugees – are still living through this conflict every day, and we must redouble our efforts to ensure their ongoing care and community life now and for the future,” said JDC CEO Ariel Zwang. “We can take a pause and note all we have achieved – and acknowledge an endless debt of gratitude to our heroic staff and volunteers and to our stalwart partners and supporters – but our work continues. We urge the Jewish community and all people to join us in sharing stories of Ukrainian Jewish perseverance and hope to remind the public that more needs to be done to support this community.”

Right now, you can help us continue to be a lifeline for Ukraine’s most vulnerable Jew caught in the devastating throes of conflict.

Donate today.