Ahead of the Jewish Purim holiday that begins Wednesday evening, a delegation of Israeli rabbis, educators and musicians has arrived in Poland. Travelling with humanitarian supplies including food, clothing and toys, the delegation was formed in response to requests from local rabbinic and community leaders in Poland to help ensure the Purim holiday can be as joy-filled as possible despite the enormous challenges facing the refugee community.
The mission, made possible by the Israel-based Ohr Torah Stone educational network, will be dispersing among several different locations in Poland including Warsaw, Lodz, Lublin, and Przemysl.
Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander, President of Ohr Torah Stone said, “As a holiday defined by the concept of joy defeating evil and a victory over hatred, Purim is celebrated as a symbol of Jewish and general human survival, so it's crucial this day not be forgotten amidst the chaos, tragedy and fear affecting the Ukrainian refugees.”
He added, “Our volunteers are going for Purim not only to answer the great need in the field for basic humanitarian necessities, but also to try and provide a degree of normalcy, meaning and hopefully even happiness in these times of incredible challenge, pain and loss.”
The holiday of Purim commemorates the story of a Jewish victory over genocide in ancient Persia and is traditionally celebrated with costumes, parties, music, food packages and charity distributed to friends and the needy. A central tradition of the day is the reading of the Book of Esther, which chronicles the role of Queen Esther in the Jewish defeat of the enemy, Haman. Members of the delegation will be holding services to read the Book of Esther and bring holiday celebrations to various locations throughout the country.
Delegation head Rabbi Benjy Myers remarked from Warsaw that, “We are here with a population that is facing some of life’s worst challenges, but our every hope is that in addition to providing material and practical support we can also contribute to a more positive and joyful holiday experience and allow them to appreciate that they are not alone.”