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Purim celebrated with carnivals

Jewish holiday commemorates the story of Esther; local synagogues encourage costumes for the events

Posted: February 23, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 23, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Rabbi Mark Blazer and family celebrating Purim at Temple Beth Ami in 2008 in '60s-themed costumes.

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The Jewish holiday of Purim begins this Saturday at sundown. Many Jewish synagogues are celebrating the festive holiday this weekend, which commemorates the story of Esther and the deliverance of the Jews from Haman.

Traditionally, synagogues begin the holiday with a reading of the Book of Esther. Each year the holiday is celebrated with much revelry and many temples host carnivals.

“The holiday is described in a way, as the Jewish Halloween, but with meaning and significance,” said Rabbi Howard Siegel of Congregation Beth Shalom.

Purim is also known as the Jewish Feast of Lots, commemorating Esther’s deliverance of the Jews in Persia from a massacre plotted by Haman.

Beth Shalom is celebrating Purim with a megillah reading tonight at 7:30 p.m. and a carnival Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The carnival will feature games, traditional Purim food, a rock wall, bounce house, pony rides and music. Attendees are encouraged to attend in costume.

Costume wearing plays a major role in the celebration of Purim. For many years Jews dressed as characters from the story. Now attendees dress in costumes of every kind.

Temple Beth Ami is hosting its annual Purim carnival Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. With the megillah reading tonight at 7 p.m. Each year the synagogue features a different theme and attendees come dressed accordingly, such as Willy Wonka characters or dressed from the 1970s. The carnival also features food, games, music, prizes and food.

“We celebrate the elements of the day,” said Rabbi Mark Blazer. “It is all based on the origin of the holiday. We take a scary situation and turn it into a day of celebration. We continue the tradition of how disaster was turned to fun.”

In line with Purim, Temple Beth Ami also planned a group trip to the UCLA Fowler Museum on March 3. UCLA is hosting a special exhibit focusing on the Persian and Jewish communities 2,500 years ago. The trip offers a guided tour and focuses on the Jewish and Persian narrative which also tells the story of Purim.

“When we think of how close the Jews came to being destroyed and how the hero did the right thing,” Siegel said. “Esther wasn’t a strong Jew, but at the right time she did the right thing.”

Purim is also a celebration of life and to look toward a time of renewal with the coming of the spring. Blazer emphasizes the importance of focusing on renewal and positive things.

“It’s easy to focus on sad things,” Blazer said. “Often times it’s just a matter of perspective. With this celebration we focus on the side of life that brings us light.”

Purim celebrations are open to the public and free of charge. Temple Beth Ami is located at 23023 Hilse Lane. For more information call 661-255-6410. Congregation Beth Shalom is located at 21430 Centre Pointe Parkway, for more information call 661-254-2411.

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