Reflecting on Purim in the Midst of Increasingly Challenging Times
I’d love to share some thoughts on Purim and how it connects to The Jewish Education Project’s innovative work today. But first, we must pause to take stock of the challenging moment we all face. The unprecedented concerns about Coronavirus are a reminder that what we do to support Jewish educators can take many shapes and forms. In that vein, we’re expanding the tools and resources we provide. Just last week, over 400 educators participated in two special webinars in response to Coronavirus, and we’re also launching a new Coronavirus helpdesk for schools. We know people are scared and concerned right now, and we’re responding quickly to offer timely, relevant support to our community. Please share the resources above, and do not hesitate to tell us if and how we can offer more help at this time.
The Message of Purim
As we reflect on our ongoing efforts to make Jewish education meaningful in today’s world, Purim really does remind us why this work is so important. In the midst of all the frivolity and laughter, hamantaschen and costumes, there’s an exchange in the Scroll of Esther (4:14) that’s as poignant today as it was back in Ancient Persia. Mordechai is trying to convince Esther to announce herself as a Jew, to stand up to her husband the king, and save her people.
“If you keep silent in this crisis, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter, while you and your father’s house will perish.”
At this point Esther is shying away from responsibility, ambivalent about taking a stand against her husband or risking her life to save the Jewish people. But when Uncle Mordechai adds, “and who knows, perhaps you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis,” Esther understands that she has to rise to the occasion.
What was going through Esther’s mind at that moment? And what transpired in the interaction between uncle and niece that emboldened her to step up?
Inspiring Our Youth
At The Jewish Education Project, this interplay is indicative of our work with Jewish educators. Although the consequences are hopefully never as dire, we ask educators, “what education are you offering Jewish youth and families today that will empower them to take a stand and to be their best selves?”
This question gets to the heart of our philosophy: that attaining Jewish knowledge and skills is a means to a greater end -- not the end itself.
In a rapidly changing world, Jewish tradition, values, and wisdom offer insights on how to respond to some of the greatest challenges facing the Jewish people and humanity today. The Jewish Education Project has been instrumental in catalyzing this. Our efforts are backed up by what we see every day: Jewish youth modeling Esther’s actions. When called to action, our youth respond—often because a Jewish educator challenged them to stand up and proudly be counted as someone who makes a difference in this world.
As we face this unexpected health issue, it’s as important as ever for us to continue supporting our youth and educators. Wishing you a happy and healthy Purim.
David Bryfman is the CEO of The Jewish Education Project