RCPP Newsletter February 2012
Resource Center for Program Professionals Update
Dear InterfaithFamily.com Network Professionals,
Is your mind spinning with all the events for Purim? Let us help you bring an interesting new emphasis to your Purim celebrations that will send out a welcoming message, loudly and clearly, to your interfaith congregants and Purim guests.
I'm sure you are already aware that Esther was in an interfaith marriage. Why not highlight this fact and use it to increase the feeling of belonging of your interfaith families? After all, Queen Esther is intermarried and has an entire megillah, a whole book, written about her! You can express your gratitude for all that intermarrieds contribute to your community as you recognize the bravery of Esther.
You can create a Purimspiel or play which emphasizes the similarities between the conflicting feelings of Esther with those whose partners are not Jewish today. There may be hidden comedy writers in your congregation who have their own experiences to share.
Set up a debate of two Esthers: one who wants to keep her Judaism hidden to save herself and her marriage and a second Esther who is scared but willing to risk all to save her people. This could be a terrific, cross-generational program for participants to bring out their feelings of pride and ambivalence about Jewish identity. See what happens when you create smaller discussion groups that include children, teens, adults and seniors.
Here are some other ideas that will bring those newer to Judaism and Jewish culture together with those who can mentor them:
- Invite interfaith couples to join in a baking contest! Make sure your advertisement explicitly invites those who are not Jewish and those who are new to Jewish culture, as we have been told that this directness is necessary for those who have questions about their welcome in the Jewish community.
- You can make hamentaschen or the Sephardic treat called orejas de Haman together. Have a beauty contest of baked goods and choose a winner or simply offer tastes of the many possible versions. Baking together is sure to break down boundaries between people and create new friendships. This can be a wonderful opportunity to connect with new families at the preschool or new members.
From time to time, I will also offer you some content that you can easily cut and paste for a message to congregants or community members. The following paragraphs point out some of the many resources available for you and your congregants at InterfaithFamily.com:
It is not too soon to begin thinking about Purim, which will begin on the evening of March 7, or the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar. This is one of Judaism's most playful holidays, a time to dress up in costumes and masks and to disguise yourself as a villain or a hero. It is a time to eat sweets, either three-cornered hamentaschen cookies or ear-shaped orejas de Haman, to share them with your neighbors, and to give food and money to those who are in need. For children the focus is on a carnival or a silly play, while grownups consider the dual nature of humanity and the bravery of a Jewish woman in an interfaith marriage.
To help you get ready, InterfaithFamily.com presents the newly redesigned booklet about Purim. This booklet explains the holiday, its customs and traditions.
Rabbi Geelah Rayzel Raphael writes an article which celebrates Esther, the Purim heroine, a Jewish prophetess who married a Persian king and was able to save the Jewish people from annihilation. Not a surprising role to those of us who know so many who are intermarried and are fiercely committed to the preservation of Judaism. You can find her essay on the Purim Resource Page at InterfaithFamily.com.
Please consider printing and displaying the Purim booklet prominently in your lobby. Hand it out to religious school children to take home, because in a very short time we are all commanded to be silly and there may be many parents who think this is only a holiday for children! Yes, this silliness is a commandment. Let's use these festivities to bring in interfaith families and show that ancient Judaism honored Esther, the intermarried prophetess.
If you find this "cut and paste" message helpful, please consider forwarding it to your congregants and encouraging them to visit InterfaithFamily.com for the many resources we have there for holidays and life cycle events.
Have a happy holiday!
Chief Education Officer
Hebrew for "my master," the term refers to a spiritual leader and teacher of Torah. Often, but not always, a rabbi is the leader of a synagogue congregation.