For the sixth year, Tzohar, Israel’s umbrella group of religious Zionist rabbis, is hosting Purim festivities for tens of thousands of Israelis, including secular Jews and the elderly.
Tzohar – an organization comprised of over 1,000 Religious Zionist volunteer rabbis and educators working towards promoting and enhancing unity and Jewish identity in the State of Israel – is increasing its efforts to bring the readings of Megillat Esther (the Book of Esther) to homes for the aged, bringing the festivities to those who often miss out on the Purim atmosphere and experience as well as launching a charity drive for Holocaust survivors.
Fifty-eight-thousand participants are expected; they will be provided with a customized Tzohar Megillat Esther, including the traditional text, pictures and explanations and the history of the specific practices of the holiday, such as giving charity and sending food baskets. Some of the readings will include a theatrical element as well, bringing the dramatic story to life for the participants.
“Our goal, as it has been for the last 20 years, is to help secular Israelis feel less alienated when it comes to Jewish practice and show them that there are many ways to embrace tradition and become involved with one’s Judaism,” said Rabbi David Stav, chairman of Tzohar. “Our various holiday programs, especially our Purim celebrations, have been growing dramatically in number every year. Seeing that growth, we are happy to include more and more events and services to better serve the community while also being sure not to forget those within our community who need our support the most.”
The Tzohar readings primarily take place in community centers or school gyms rather than synagogues, making it a more open and welcoming environment for all. “Having it in a neutral place makes it a lot more comfortable for those who typically do not join religious services,” said Tzohar Executive Vice President Yakov Gaon.
“Purim is often the most exciting holiday of the year for our kids, but as a family that doesn’t attend synagogue regularly, we don’t always feel comfortable going there,” said a participant from last year. “Coming to the community center wasn’t at all intimidating for us and we all really enjoyed the experience and explanations. It brought the holiday new meaning for all of us.”
The “Together for Purim” program was inspired by Tzohar’s “Praying Together” Yom Kippur program, which has been taking place for over 10 years and grows by thousands of participants each year.