During the Hebrew month of Adar, the month where Purim falls, we’re commanded to increase our joy. As a Jew and an educator, I’ve always struggled with this commandment. Maybe it is that I’ve outgrown my love of dressing up in costume, so Purim doesn’t have the same glitz and glam that it once did. Still, as a Jewish educator, each year, I find myself taking stock of how and where I can increase my joy in the month of Adar, even if it doesn’t come from dressing up or playing Purm carnival games.
This year, our older learners in Nitzanim (3rd and 4th grade) and Anafim (5th-7th grade) started Tefilah (prayers) by singing Mishenicnas Adar instead of our typical niggun (wordless song). There were even a few days when they decided to interrupt our regular tefilot (prayers) by signing Mishenicnas Adar. What they thought was a distraction from our typical schedule, actually increased all our joy as we joined together in song recognizing this special time we were in together. Our younger learners in Garinim (Prek-2) in South Philly had the privilege of getting to choose which tefilah we would sing in any order. By doing this, every learner participated in tefilah because they each wanted to pick a prayer to say and lead. They giggled as they sang a song that typically falls at the conclusion of our tefilot at the very beginning. It gave me so much joy watching their excitement to not only sing our tefilot, but also explore their leadership skills as well. Of course seeing kids in their spirit week outfits was a blast, and watching them build their cooking skills by baking hamantaschen elevated our Purim spirits. I smiled as I watched the kids create hamantaschen out of their challah dough following a week of baking. A hamantaschen that tastes like challah? The best kind of hamantaschen in my opinion!
As Purim fell on the evening of Monday, March 6, well over 100 parents, grandparents, and children were welcomed into both our Center City and South Philly Lab Schools. For me, this is when I fully felt the magically communal joy of Purim. After a few weeks of practicing our newly written Spiel (shoutout to our incredible Camp Coordinator, Ash Fisher-Tannenbaum), while helping our older learners study their Megillah readings, our kids took the stage by storm. There are not many things that give me more joy than watching learners work so hard at mastering a Jewish ritual, tradition, or practice and then, watching them glow with pride because of their accomplishments. Purim Spiels can be funny and silly, and watching the kids’ enthusiasm for assigning roles, participating, making props, and cheering on their friends and community created joy not only for me as their educator, but for all who came to watch and participate. Without a doubt, it is our incredible learners who helped me fulfill the commandment of increasing my joy this Adar and Purim.
The Purim fun didn’t just stop on Monday night. On Tuesday, our kids participated in a Purim Se’udah (festive meal) where they all enjoyed ice cream and soft pretzels. And all our families are invited to join us for an Adar and Purim-themed Family Shabbat this Friday, March 10 at 5:30pm. We hope you will join us!
Missing Purim already? Watch this video recap of some of our favorite moments from Adar: