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Archive for : Purim

From Queen Esther to Emma Watson

It’s no coincidence that the Jewish holiday of Purim typically falls in March, AKA Women’s History Month. Okay, maybe it’s a coincidence, but it’s a great one. The Purim story, after all, is built around two mighty women: one who stands up for her rights (Queen Vashti) and another who stands up for the rights and safety of her people (Queen Esther).

As we remember and celebrate Jewish tradition’s early female heroines, it is also important to remember that women’s rights issues – everything from gender pay inequality, to women’s healthcare and education access – are still critically important both in America and around the world. That’s why, this Purim, we want to shed light on this ongoing work.

Who better to do that than Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations, Emma Watson, herself? In addition to giving a killer speech about gender equality at the UN a couple years back, Watson is a leader of HeforShe, a UN Women campaign focused on bringing all voices around the world together in support of women’s rights.

In the video below, Watson teams up with Broadway star Lin Manuela Miranda (of Hamilton) for an amazing beat box/freestyle flow session about gender equality. It’s worth a watch – we may have watched it twice – and a visit to the UN’s HeforShe campaign page.

And for more on Purim’s heroines, check out this post on My Jewish Learning called Vashti & Esther: A Feminist Perspective.

Buy (Kosher, Sustainable) Meat from Grow & Behold and Support Masbia

Eating delicious food is a reward in and of itself. If it is also sustainably produced and kosher, that’s even the better. But what happens when the amazing dinner on your plate gives back to those in need? Win, win, win.

This Purim, Grow & Behold, the kosher sustainable meat company, will donate 5% of all orders delivered next week (March 14-18) to the kosher soup kitchen network, Masbia. In addition to partying, Purim is filled with many opportunities to give back to our friends and community. The Purim tradition of matanot l’evyonim, specifically instructs us to give charity to those in need. Grow & Behold donates products to Masbia year-round, but in the spirit of holiday, they up their game. And you can help!

Grow & Behold’s poultry and meat is raised on small, family-run farms. They adhere to strict standards of kashrut, animal welfare, worker treatment, and sustainable agriculture. Masbia, meanwhile, provides everyone in need – kosher keeping or not – meals with dignity.

Find out more about Grow & Behold’s products and place your order on their website. And learn more about the great work at Masbia your purchase will support at the video below:

Happy Purim!

5 Ways to Give Purim Food Gifts (Mishloach Manot) To Those in Need

March is Get To Know Your Neighbors month at Repair the World. Check back all month long for inspiring posts.

Giving mishloach manot, the gifts of food people share on Purim, is one of the most delicious Jewish traditions. Derived from the Book of Esther and literally translated as “sending of portions,” people bundle up hamantaschen and other edible goodies (brownies, granola bars, raisins, juice boxes) and deliver them to friends and family.

But get this: giving mishloach manot have an underlying message of social change. Each person is required to deliver at least one Purim basket to someone else. The reason? To ensure that everybody, wealthy or not, has enough food to enjoy their Purim celebration. In other words, it’s a bit of food justice built right into the holiday!
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Who Is Under Your Mask?

This year, the Jewish holiday of Purim coincides with another important day, International Women’s Day. (Read more about the day’s history, which dates back to the early 20th century, here.)

The parallels are not hard to find: International Women’s Day celebrates women’s great achievements throughout history; Purim celebrates the achievements of two remarkable women. First there’s Queen Esther – a woman of remarkable bravery, who played a critical role in changing the course of Jewish history for the better. Purim also retells the story of Queen Vashti, a woman who stood up for what she believed in, despite the potential consequences. (Read more about Esther and Vashti here.)

We think it’s a pretty cool coincidence. We also think the convergence of these two holidays lends itself to some pretty great Purim costume inspiration. So what better way to celebrate both Purim and International Women’s Day than by dressing up as an amazing female leader – embodying her for the evening, and sharing her story with anyone who asks, “What are you?” (yeesh, that got really deep).

So if you’re still looking for your Purim costume (and let’s face it – many of us are), consider dressing as one of history’s greatest female leaders. Some ideas to get you started–fully loaded with what you’ll need:

  • Queen Esther
    Who she was: The heroine of the Purim story.
    What to wear: A flowing, drape-y dress, lots of silk scarves, a crown or beaded headdress, dangly earrings.
  • Queen Vashti
    Who she was: King Ahasuerus’ first wife who was banished because she refused to dance for the King.
    What to wear: Pretty much the same as above.
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg
    Who she is: A Supreme Court Justice of the United States – only the second woman to hold the position.
    What to wear: A salt and pepper bun, glasses, a black judge’s robe with a frilly white collar.
  • Rosa Parks
    Who is she is:  Known as “the first lady of civil rights,” Rosa Parks became an international icon after her refusal to surrender her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama bus spurred a city-wide boycott.
    What to wear: a bun, rimless circle-shaped glasses, 1950’s vintage skirt suit and purse.
  • Jane Goodall
    Who she is: A scientist and naturalist who is considered to be the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees.
    What to wear: khakis and neutral colored turtleneck, long white wig tied into a ponytail. Bonus prop: carry a chimpanzee doll.
  • Annie Leibovitz
    Who she is: One of America’s most influential portrait photographers. Think of someone famous. She’s probably taken their picture.
    What to wear: A long salt and pepper wig (or powder in your hair), glasses, black turtleneck. Bonus prop: carry a camera.
  • Golda Meir
    Who she was: The fourth Prime Minister of Israel, and the first woman to hold the position.
    What to wear: A vintage black house dress with a brooch or pearls, hear pulled back in a low bun, strong penciled-in eyebrows.
  • Betty White
    Who she is: Nonagenarian actress who is best known for her role in the Golden Girls, but who has had a remarkable comeback career recently.
    What to wear: A coiffed white wig, a modest but brightly colored sweater with a scarf, big pearl clip on earrings, red lipstick, a charming grin.
  • Billie Holiday
    Who she was: One of the most influential jazz singers of all time.
    What to wear: Hair in a french twist with a white flower tucked in the front, a vintage dress, red lipstick. Bonus prop: carry a microphone.

Need even more inspiration? Check out Biography’s awesome roundup of Women’s history bios here.

Who are you dressing up as for Purim? Let us know by tweeting @repairtheworld

Spice Up Your Shaloch Manot with A “Service Pairing”

Purim, which starts tomorrow night, is the topsy-turviest of Jewish holidays. People get dressed up in costumes, listen to a reading of the Scroll of Esther, eat a festive meal, drink lots of wine (if they’re of-age, of course), nosh on Hamentashen, and give shaloch manot – gifts of food to friends – and mattanot le’evyonim – gifts to the poor. (Find out more about those traditions here.)

Giving tzedakah to the less fortunate via mattanot le’evyonim is one of Purim’s greatest and most worthwhile traditions (aside from partying like a rock star on Purim night, of course). But even mishloach manot can be imbued with the spirit of service. Some people like to “green” their shaloch manot, sharing gifts of organic fruit, homemade baked goods and, fair trade coffee or tea, and packing the whole thing in a sustainable or reusable container. (Check out more green Purim ideas here.)

We love the idea of celebrating Purim sustainably. But we also think shaloch manot can be a platform to educate others about service, and to make a difference in the meantime. So this year, add a little taste of service to your gifts. For each item typically found in a shaloch manot package, we’ve suggested a “serving pairing” – a little extra action you can take to change the world, while bringing a smile to your friends and family’s faces.

    • Hamantaschen: These tri-cornered cookies represent the villain Haman’s hat. Play up the hat theme by making a donation to Hats Off for Cancer, an organization that collects hats and distributes them to young cancer patients.
    • Fruit: Slip in an information card about one of the Organic Consumer Association’s many campaigns focused on supporting organic, just and sustainable food systems.
    • Granola Bars: Aside from GORP, granola bars are a hiker’s favorite snack. Support forest health by joining a volunteer trail maintenance crew with the Appalachian Mountain Club (or a hiking association near you). Print out a copy of the 2012 teen or adult volunteer schedule and include it in your mishloach manot.
    • Chocolate: Make a donation to support the work of Fair Trade USA, which supports cocoa farmers and other farming families across Latin America, Africa, and Asia. (Making sure the candy in the shaloch manot itself is also fair trade is a nice touch.)
    • Potato chips: Riff off this school lunch box classic by supporting education. Donate to Reach Out and Read, the early childhood literacy program. While you’re at it, slip a copy of your favorite book into the shaloch manot and spread the reading love.
    • Wine or grape juice: In honor of the Jewish people’s most sacred beverage, make a donation to your favorite Jewish charity or organization – like one of these!

Let us know how you’re adding service to your shaloch manot by tweeting us at @repairtheworld.

Thanks to Eitan Press for contributing significantly to this article.

Join Isabella Freedman for a Purim of Generosity and Justice – March 9-11

Jam-filled hamantaschen, dressing up in costume, parties – there’s a lot to love about Purim. And this year, there’s even more to love. Join the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center form March 9-11 for a weekend of generosity and service inspired by Purim’s themes of mishloach manot (sending gifts of food) and matanot l’evyonim (giving gifts to the poor).

Presented in partnership with Repair the World, American Jewish World Service, Avodah, Pursue, and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, it will be a weekend filled with relaxation, celebration, learning and service. Guest teacher Danny Siegel, an expert on microphilanthropy and tikkun olam, will teach inspirational justice-centered learning sessions.

And while you’re there, you can join in the Purim tradition of mishloach manot with “Pack it Up for Purim” – a UJA-sponsored initiative of packing bags of nutritious and tasty food staples like tomato sauce, peanut butter, oatmeal, and fruit juice to be shared with food pantries. The bags you pack during Purim will be donated to a pantry near Isabella Freedman.

Find out more about Freedman’s Purim weekend here, and learn about the Pack it Up for Purim initiative at the video below:

Planning to head to Isabella Freedman this Purim? Let us know by tweeting @repairtheworld!