Chabad Of Jackson Celebrates Jungle-Themed Purim

Levi Wilanstey, left, and Rabbi Shmuel Naparstek reading the Megillah. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

JACKSON – Purim is the most festive holiday in Judaism and more than 50 residents of the Jewish faith celebrated it in style at Jackson Crossing.

Purim begins each year on day 14 of the Hebrew month of Adar, which generally falls in late winter or early spring. This year, Purim began on Feb. 28.

The holiday commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, who had planned to kill all Jews during the age of the ancient Achaemenid Persian Empire. The story is recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther which states that Haman, royal vizier to King Ahasuerus/Achashverosh of Persia, planned to kill all the Jews in the empire, but his plans were foiled by Mordecai and his cousin and adopted daughter Esther, who had risen to become Queen of Persia. The day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing.

Daniel Mizrahi, 3, of Jackson dressed in a gecko costume for the Purim celebration held on March 1 at Jackson Crossing sponsored by the Chabad of Jackson. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

According to the Book of Esther, Purim became associated with days of feasting and joy, and gifts to the poor. It is celebrated in modern times by Jews exchanging gifts of food and drink known as mishloach manot, donating charity to the poor and eating a celebratory meal known as a se’udat Purim.

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The observance also includes a public reading of the Scroll of Esther, known as the Megillah, chanted in the synagogue on the eve of Purim and again the next morning. It is the last of the five scrolls that form part of the third division of the Bible, known as the Ketuvim, or Writings.

Purim parties often feature a theme and this celebration was, “Purim in the Jungle.” The celebration included African cuisine, an African drum circle and a multi-media Megillah reading.

“We emphasize the importance of Jewish unity and friendship,” said Rabbi Shmuel Naparstek of Chabad of Jackson. “Last  year our theme was Hawaii.” Rabbi Naparstek dressed as a monkey, joining attendees young and old who wore costumes ranging from leopards, elephants and even Batman.

Levi Wilanstey wore a parrot hat and joined Rabbi Naparstek in the reading of the Megillah toward the beginning of the event.

“There is always fun at Chabad,” Hindy Wilansky said. Hindy is Rabbi Naparstek’s sister who traveled from New York with her 5-month-old, Mendel, for the event. Both were in costume for the celebration.

Rabbi Shmuel Naparstek of Chabad of Jackson joins members of the Chabad for the drum circle activity during a Purim celebration held at Jackson Crossing. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

Terry and Nancy Brown of Point Pleasant and their partner Ali Donahue provided a variety of drums as part of the entertainment.

“We’ve done Purim parties all over the state. We did one last night in Manalapan,” Terry Brown said. “Purim parties can feature many themes that lend themselves to performing the drums. I’ve collected drums from all over the world and we enjoy this as we come to these and other events to bring out the inner drummer in everyone.”

“We are attuned to the rhythm of the drum before we’re born,” Terry Brown added. He gathered several attendees into a circle and along with his drum partners, provided each a drum.

Daniel Mizrahi, dressed in gecko costume, couldn’t wait to start drumming. His father, Shua, dressed as Captain America, smiled as Daniel played the instrument before activity officially started. Shua said he and his family enjoy the celebration of Purim.

Terry Brown of Point Pleasant leads a group of Chabad of Jackson in a drumming activity as part of the fun activities held during a Purim celebration. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

Lakewood resident Ita Nemtzov came out for the event dressed in a stylish hat and leopard coat. She did not realize that the Purim celebration featured a jungle theme when she decided to wear the coat to the event.

Nemtzov described Purim as a “commemorative holiday. While it came from a serious subject it is a time Jews come together to have unity and to share in a good time. It is a time to share in a good time and to share gifts.”