02/26/06 — Residents can learn about Purim holiday

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Residents can learn about Purim holiday

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on February 26, 2006 2:09 AM

Be sure to tell the children to make plenty of noise.

After all, it's almost the "Jewish Mardi Gras."

On March 13, Wayne County Reads will celebrate Purim, considered one of the most joyous events on the Jewish calendar. The festivities will include traditional Jewish food, plenty of noise and a story from the Bible.

And best of all, organizers say, it's free to anyone who picks up a ticket.

The event is one of several coming in March as part of the Wayne County Reads committee's choice of Elie Wiesel's book "Night" as its 2006 selection.

With costumed Wayne Com-munity College students acting in the background, a storyteller will read from the book of Esther, which introduces the Purim celebration.

Far from a solemn event, the Purim event will be a chance for children to learn a little bit about the Jewish faith and culture and to have a lot of fun, said Chris Denise, Wayne County Reads committee member and event coordinator.

"This is going to be geared toward the children," Denise said. "We're going to encourage them to make noise."

And in many ways, noise is at the heart of Purim's lesson, he said.

The story of the holiday started with a plot by the villain Haman to exterminate the Jews. His anger toward Queen Esther's cousin Mordecai, a Jew, led him to advise the Persian king, Ahasuerus, to eliminate the entire Jewish race.

The king agreed, not knowing that one of his wives, Esther, was herself a Jew.

As the story goes, Esther fasted for three days and sought counsel with his majesty, to speak on behalf of the Jewish people. But it was a dangerous proposition. She hadn't been summoned by Ahasuerus and thus, could have been put to death for seeking his counsel.

The king listened to his wife and realized Haman was a villain. Haman was sentenced to death, and the Jewish people were saved. Purim is a celebration of Esther's courage.

Denise, an academic skills coordinator at Wayne Community College, said the story of Esther is worth sharing. After all, it can be applied right here in Wayne County.

"It has a lot to do with individual responsibility," he said. "How each person plays a part in the community."

But the March 13 celebration won't be simply religious. It's also a chance for people to come and see Oheb Shalom, the second-oldest synagogue in eastern North Carolina. The event will be held there. The historic building is located at the corner of James and Oak streets.

"Even people who just want to come and see the synagogue should come," Denise said. "We'll give a history of the building and a tour, of course."

But the biblical reading is still an important part, he said. And every time the villain Haman's name is uttered, the children will be asked to make some noise -- hiss, stomp their feet, boo.

"It shows us that there's light at the end of the tunnel," Denise said. "That God has a plan."

Because of limited seating in the temple, tickets for the event, which is free, will be required and are available at the Wayne County Museum, Wayne Community College and the Wayne County Public Library.

In addition to the performance, there will be free refreshments as well as displays celebrating Jewish culture.

There will be plenty of parking right next to the synagogue, as well as security on duty all evening to ensure that families can come and go safely, organizers said.