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All About Purim 5781 / 2021

Purim banner with megilat Esther, kiddush cup, hamentashen and groger.

Even while marking a full year of the Jewish holiday cycle during the pandemic, Purim is an exciting opportunity to rekindle happiness and gratitude, and to remember that even the worst scenarios can be turned upside-down and transformed for the better.

Click or tap on the links below to jump to each section:

Rimonim: Youth & Family Programs

Megillah Readings and Services

Jewish Learning: Purim Classes

Mitzvot and Preparation for Purim

Rimonim: for Families with Children

Megillah Drama and Virtual Costume Parade! (Zoom)
Thursday, February 25, 5:15-6:00 PM

A dramatic and zany reading of Megillah highlights in Hebrew and English, starring Mira Kessler and Talia Lakritz, plus opportunities for children (and their grownups!) to show up off their Purim finery. BYO grogger...  For more info:


Megillah Readings and Services

Zoom Megillah Reading 
Thursday, February 25, 6:30 PM

A live, complete reading from a kosher scroll, over Zoom. The mitzvah of hearing the Megillah should generally be done live and in person (see our in-person readings below). However, for those whose medical conditions or medical advice make it impossible to safely attend in person, and who could not otherwise hear it read, Megillah can be heard by remote transmission, and we're delighted to feature our beloved reader Jack Seidenberg, hosted by Rabbi Guy Austrian. The text will be shared on the screen (or bring your own copy). "Boo" on mute!

In-Person Megillah Readings
FTJC will offer several live, in-person Megillah readings at our temporary outdoor location. Attendance will be limited in number, by pre-registration and lottery assignment only, following Covid safety precautions. Registration is now closed. For more info:

Hearing the Megillah once (not both night and day) is sufficient to fulfill the mitzvah in these pandemic circumstances, so our hope is to give each household who signs up a slot at one reading, either night or day.

Attendees should please bring your own siddur and copy of the megillah if possible; some copies will be available. Flashlights will be available at night-time readings. In case of rain, a canopy will cover the reader and Megillah, but attendees should please bring umbrellas and raincoats!

Thursday, February 25, 6:30 PM
Megillah with Ma'ariv Service

Thursday, February 25, 8:00 PM
Megillah with Ma'ariv Service

Friday, February 26, 7:00 AM
Megillah with Shacharit Service

Friday, February 26, 9:00 AM
Megillah only


Jewish Learning: Purim Classes (Zoom)

Gifts of Food, Gifts of Money: Giving Joyously on Purim 
Tuesday, February 16, 8:00 PM

Purim has four main mitzvot to cultivate joy and goodwill: hearing the Megillah, having a festive meal, sending gifts of food (mishloach manot), and donating charity (matanot la’evyonim). Due to the ongoing global health crisis, many of us this year will be focusing our Purim celebrations around those last two: mishloach manot and matanot la’evyonim. In this learning session, we will explore the origin of these mitzvot from the Purim story, the various ways we can perform these two mitzvot, and reflect on how these mitzvot can build a joyous community, even while physically distanced. No prior knowledge of Purim needed, all material will be available in English. This Jewish learning event is hosted by student clergy intern Naomi Zaslow.

Masks and Masquerade: The Meaning of Purim in a Pandemic 
Tuesday, February 23, 8:15 PM

Multimedia text study and discussion with Rabbi Guy Austrian. How do we discern God's presence or absence in a period of crisis, and what counts as a miracle of deliverance? We'll delve into the Rabbis' struggle with God's hiddenness during the crisis described in the Megillah. We'll also unmask the origins of masquerade as a Purim custom (hint: New Orleans!) and explore its hidden meaning.

A Year of Life Turned Upside Down: Ta'anit Esther with Hadar 
Thursday, February 25, 11:00-6:00 PM

Purim marks one year since the COVID-19 pandemic changed our lives, bringing to mind the words of Megillat Esther, “Venahafoch Hu” - “and it was turned upside down.” On the day before Purim, the Fast of Esther marks a time when the Jewish people faced imminent danger by fasting, praying, and preparing for Esther to change their fates. In this spirit, FTJC is cosponsoring a day of learning, prayer, service, and ritual at “A Year of Life Turned Upside Down: Ta’anit Esther with Hadar.” Members of Hadar’s faculty will share Torah and teachings on Musical and Textual Reinterpretations of Kaddish, COVID-19 and Incarcerated Populations, Permission to Rejoice in the Midst of Suffering, and more. We will gather together to mark the lives lost, ask for healing of the sick, and hope for a brighter and healthier year ahead.


Getting Ready for Purim: Mitzvot and Preparation

Mishloach Manot (Sending Gifts of Food)
FTJC has set up an easy way for you to send Mishloach Manot (gifts of food that are sent to family and friends) while supporting your synagogue at the same time. Deadline to sponsor is Tuesday, February 23, at 11:59 PMClick here to sponsor and for more information.

Matanot La'evyonim (Gifts for the Poor)
FTJC is collecting donations for matanot la’evyonim (gifts to the poor), which is also a mitzvah for Purim. Bring a cash contribution when you arrive for megillah readings or make a donation online and mark it "Purim Gifts for the Poor". We will be distributing the funds to the Jewish Community Council of Washington Heights-InwoodAmerican Jewish World Service, Mazon, and the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital's Covid-19 Relief Fund. It’s also a wonderful practice to carry change or small bills on Purim, so that you can give freely to anyone who asks for money on the street.

Ta’anit Esther (Fast of Esther)
Thursday, February 25

Begins at dawn, 5:14 AM, and ends at nightfall, 6:24 PM (in Washington Heights & Inwood). Fast like the Jewish people depend on it —remember Ta’anit Esther, honoring Esther’s dangerous flirtation with doom (Esther 4:16). Those who are pregnant, nursing, unwell, or have a medical condition or eating disorder that precludes fasting are exempt and should not fast. Likewise anyone who begins the fast but becomes unable to continue should break the fast. Minors are also exempt but older children can learn to participate in some partial way if they’re able. See also above under Jewish Learning: FTJC is cosponsoring a day of learning, prayer, service, and ritual at “A Year of Life Turned Upside Down: Ta’anit Esther with Hadar.” 

Giving the Machatzit Hashekel (Tzedakah)
Thursday, February 25

A pre-Purim custom is to give a small amount (about $1.50) to tzedakah or to a Jewish institution, for every adult member of the household. Based on Exodus 30:11-16, this radically egalitarian custom (“the rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less”) recalls the half-shekel given in ancient times “to make atonement for their souls” — and has been adapted for Purim, perhaps acknowledging the massacre of our enemies in Esther 9:15-16. The custom is to give during the daytime of the Fast of Esther.

Making a Purim Se'udah
Friday, February 26

On Purim day, each household makes a se'udah, a festive meal with food, drink, and silliness. When Purim falls on a Friday, some have the custom to schedule the meal such that it is eaten in the late afternoon, close to Shabbat, making it easier for people who work on Purim to fulfill the obligation of the seudah. For more on this custom, read here by R. Ethan Tucker.


Wed, February 24 2021 12 Adar 5781