With tens of thousands of Jews around the world forced to spend the Purim holiday in isolation because of the coronavirus outbreak, organizations are working to make sure that megillah (Scroll of Esther) readings are being made accessible to as many people as possible.
Once again, Tzohar and Ohr Torah Stone's "Yachad" program are partnering to host megillah readings and Purim activities in 550 locations around Israel, and the events are being coordinated within Health Ministry guidelines. The organizations host the Purim celebrations outside the synagogue, including at community centers, cultural centers, parks and even libraries to welcome those not as comfortable in a traditional religious setting.
Rabbi David Stav, Chairman of Tzohar stressed that anyone who has even a slight suspicion of carrying a contagious disease is prohibited from exiting their homes.
"While in most years one would not be permitted to hear megillah by phone or online, this year when we are facing a crisis that has thousands of people isolated in their homes, it would be completely permissible and we therefore urge anyone who can’t leave their homes to listen and watch via live online readings."
Participants able to attend the events will all receive a megillah with accompanying explanations to follow along. While in previous years, megillahs have been available in Hebrew and Russian, for the first time, communities with native Ethiopian populations have requested megillahs in Amharic. Over 2000 copies in the Ethiopian language are being printed for distribution in Jerusalem, Haifa, Yokneam, Bat Yam, Yavneh, Tirat Hacarmel and Netanya.
"'Megillah bakehilla' means, literally, 'reading the scroll of Esther within the community,'" said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone. "The key to all of Yachad's programming is the ideal that Judaism belongs to all of us and therefore needs to be made accessible to everyone. This year, due to the large number of people in isolation, Ohr Torah Stone will be hosting a live stream of the megillah reading on our Facebook page on Monday at 7:30 pm, so that even individuals who feel alone can still celebrate Purim as part of the whole."