On Friday, March 22, 2019, a few hours before entering Shabbat, members of the Jewish community in Arad met for the most cheerful Jewish festivity. Thus, the large hall of the community’s Old Age Home was filled with children and adults dressed in cartoon characters, wild west bandits, musketeers, cats, mice, kings, princes and princesses.
Ionel Schlesinger, the president of the community, greeted everyone with good words from the doorstep, making everyone feel honored, then began to present the event and the traditions related to it.
“Purim is said to be the prayer celebration of an event in our history. Purim means chances, dice. There are many translations that refer to the lottery organized by Haman that wanted to set the date for the extermination of the Jewish people. The brief story of these events is found in Esther’s book, Meghilat Ester, which will be read by Boris Mor as soon as you can get rid of me,” jokes Ionel Schlesinger.
Specific for Purim
The Jews are celebrating by remembering, so by tradition, the book of Esther is read, carnivals are organized where the participants are masked. Also, friends, acquaintances, colleagues and families send each other cakes or other sweets. The food specific to this holiday is a special cake called Humăntaș, made from a dough with a composition similar to cornulețe (Romanian pastry), but in the form of a triangle, with a filling of jam.
The Humăntaș is done so that people are saying in the many Jewish variants and traditions, that it would be Hamantaschen in Yddish, that is, the pockets of Hamman, Haman’s handbags, or that it would resemble the hat in three corners of the same villain. In Israel, Humăntaș is also called oznei haman, meaning Haman’s ears.
“It is a custom to drink a glass of wine. Only a glass of wine. Whoever wants two will ask. Being a cheerful celebration, we try to make ourselves happy. It is one of the few cheerful feasts of the Jews, “adds the president of the community.
From local history
Purim is the feast of opportunity and chance, because precisely on the day when it was designated for the Jews to killed by Haman, their fate turned around and were saved.
The main characters of the event are the heroes Estera and Mordechai, reflected in the costumes of Sorana Szegő and Charles de Vegvar. Besides, not only the characters they have embodied are historical, Charles de Vegvar representing himself a part of national and local history. He is the nephew of the well-known Jewish aristocrat of Arad, Francis von Neuman, the baron of Végvár, whose family has significantly contributed to the socio-economic development of our city.
Charles de Vegvar’s visit was of great importance to the community. The president of the community has personally thanked him for attending the event, while praising his special costume of Mordechai.
Like any moment of a Jew’s life, all the more a feast, thi one too was blessed three times. The first one was for reading the Meghilat Ester, the second for the miracles our forefathers lived, and the third because we came to live this day. The blessings were said by Boris Mor, the cult official of the Jewish Community of Arad, who also read Meghilat Ester.
“We know very well that many times throughout the history the Jewish people were in danger, suffered many persecutions. The Jewish people have always managed to move on. We are convinced that this time too, and from now on, the Jewish people will survive, with all the Hamans who want to exterminate us. said Ionel Schlesinger, after which he uttered the third blessing and wished “Happy Holidays” to the public.
“Ideally, reading Meghilat is done on the first day and the next day of Purim and today we are already on the third day. That’s why I’m going to read with three blessings, but not as they are normally said, you know, so the name of God is not said anymore. In fact, today, Meghilat is no longer read, but for us to hear it too”, explains Boris Mohr before he begins to read the blessings.
According to tradition, every time the name of Haman was spoken, the hall made a tremendous noise.
Those who best respected this custom were, of course, the children, whom the habit made them cheer up. This reaction dictated by the Jewish tradition shows contempt for the negative character.
Slowly, it began to become a tradition as the group of children participating in the activities of the two volunteers of the Hebrew Club, Elda Botezatu and Margareta Szegő, to delight the audience with a Purim show. This time, the favorite song of the youngsters was Leitzan katan nehmad, in English the little and cute Clown, which they sang in several versions.
The greatest sensation was the appearance of Miss Elinor Botezatu in a superb clown suit that fits perfectly with the song and the atmosphere. In the song Leitzan katan nechmad, the cute clown is dancing around and somebody asks “my little clown, are you going to dance with me too?”
As in the song, in our show too, all children wanted to dance with the clown, so that, to the delight of the audience, parents and grandparents, a true Jewish hora dance began.
At the end each costumed participant was asked what his costume represents. The cutest conversation was made behind the scenes, between a cat, Karoline Reckerth (9 years old) and a mouse, Ariela Szegő (5 years old). Karo tells Ari that she is a cat, and Ariela declares a “squeak-squeak”, then mimics a scare and an escape.
Awarded with sweets
Danna Kalman, secretary of the Jewish Community of Arad, surpassed herself and prepared, from the community, candy-filled packages for each participating child. Both the volunteers Margareta Szegő and Elda Botezatu, as well as the parents, grandparents and children, wanted to thank her for the wonderful gifts and support she provides with such affection every time.
As the community’s president mentioned, Danna Kalman was also the one who tried to find and order the most beautiful and tasty Purim cakes from a local producer. Cakes, which were appreciated by young people as “mega good”, arrived to each participant.
The organization of the event was done, as usual, by the president of the community, Ionel Schlesinger. At the smooth running of the event has helped Mrs Ana Ioniță, aunt Ani, as we call her. Here is a handful of people who created one of the most successful events in our community so that both community members and grandparents from the community’s Elderly Home to have a great celebration.
Kabalat and Oneg Shabat
The event ended with the divine service of the cult official. The Kabbalah Shabbat Prayer is the one where the participants welcome the Shabbat, the day of rest for the Jews. Immediately followed Kidush, with the blessings for wine and Challah, the braided bread, served on Shabbat. Oneg Shabbat, the joy of Shabbat, consisted mainly of the encounter between people and the discussions that were formed.
Though the evening had come, people did not want to leave even after exiting the community’s building, and the conversation continued for another hour, at the gate of the Elderly Home.
The Jewish community in Arad has not forgotten the grandparents, who for various reasons, whether because of poor health or due to travel problems, could not come to Purim. So, Danna Kalman organized over 20 volunteers aged between 5 and 50 to go to the elderly and bring them to the famous Mishloach Manot sent this year too by the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania, helped by the Jewish Distribution Committee. Through the service of our volunteers, the small packages with a few cakes and a Meghilat Ester, have reached 25 grandparents who are helped by the Arad community.
Vidorka M. Szegő