It’s going to be a busy Purim in Portland. Across the city’s four Chabad centers, there’ll be an event for young professionals, a celebration on campus at Reed College, and community parties in Oregon’s Northeast, Southwest and Southeast Portland, says Rabbi Motti Wilhelm, co-director of the Center for Jewish Life–SW Portland.

This year, they’re tailoring their offerings for different demographic needs in a more pronounced way, he explains. “We have to get out to where the people are,” says Wilhelm, who co-directs the Chabad center with his wife, Mimi. They’re hoping that between 650 and 700 people throughout the Portland area will be joining them for Purim festivities.

The holiday of Purim, which starts this year on Wednesday night, Feb. 28, and continues through Thursday, March 1 (in Jerusalem, Shushan Purim is celebrated the next day, on Friday, March 2) celebrates the deliverance of the Jewish people from the wicked Haman in the days of Queen Esther of Persia.

Chabad centers around the world will host parties around festive themes that bring their communities together to celebrate and take part in the holiday’s four central mitzvahs, which include hearing the reading of the Megillah, sending gifts of food to friends (mishlaoch manot), giving charity to the needy (matanot laevyonim) and eating a festive meal.

Hot dogs, chili, nachos and pretzels are on the menu for the stadium-style Purim celebration at Chabad Lubavitch of Northwest Indiana in Munster, which will also include a sports coach who will lead activities for kids and also engage adults.

Rabbi Eliezer Zalmanov, who co-directs the Chabad center with his wife, Chanie, says their main event on Thursday will incorporate the four elements of Purim as well; there will be a Megillah reading at the beginning of the party, and during the festivities, people will be able to give mishlaoch manot and tzedakah to different causes. “It enables everybody to do all four mitzvahs,” he says.

It’s a small community where they get to focus on each and every member, and Purim is no exception, says Zalmanov. “Every individual counts; the difference between 50 people at a party and 51 people at a party is one whole person, which is very important.”

The event also represents a chance to help people realize Torah and Judaism are for everyone, regardless of their level of observance, affirms the rabbi. And fittingly, Purim as a holiday is about letting go of inhibitions and breaking free of previous mindsets, he notes.

“You change your perspective, and you realize, ‘Hey, this can be interesting.’ ”

Chabad of Rechavia in Jerusalem will be sponsoring Megillah readings at cafes, restaurants and other locations around the city.
Chabad of Rechavia in Jerusalem will be sponsoring Megillah readings at cafes, restaurants and other locations around the city.

Experiencing Purim for the First Time

Rabbi Tzvi and Chanie Backman, who co-direct Chabad serving Tufts University outside of Boston, will host a 1920s-themed Purim party at night, and during the day have a Purim brunch where people will be able to hear the Megillah and exchange mishloach manot.

“It’ll be a lot of fun, like it always is,” says the Somerville, Mass.-based rabbi. They’re expecting 50 to 100 students in the evening, and another 25 to 50 during the day.

Their events will bring in a mix of students looking for a Purim party and draw some who will experience the holiday for the first time. It’s a chance to help illuminate what an honor it is to be part of the Jewish legacy, says the rabbi.

“I want them to realize that they’re part of a very glorious and rich history and story, and their Jewish identity is something that’s very powerful,” says Backman. “We’ve been through a lot, and we’re still here to tell the tale—and we will continue to be here.”

Purim everywhere has tremendous meaning, he says. “We always can use a boost and a reminder of who we are, and that G‑d looks after us and takes care of us, whatever the situation may be.”

For a festive meal or Megillah reading, go to the Purim event locator.