Celebrate Purim in the Bay Area

Ronnie's Awesome List presents a guest article by Deborah Burg-Schnirman. Deborah runs Kesher Marin, a concierge service designed to help families explore Jewish life and community.  She is currently helping families connect to Purim festivities for families in and around Marin and will soon be launching a special, free gift offer for families to help celebrate Passover. Happy Purim!  

Purim is one of the most joyous and festive Jewish holidays that celebrates when the Jewish people of Persia were saved from destruction by the wicked Haman, an advisor to the Persian King. The holiday is celebrated on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar, this year beginning at sundown on Saturday, March 11 and continuing through the following day.  Activities are taking place all around Marin and the Bay Area to celebrate the holiday.

Customary to celebrate, children and adults dress in costume, deliver treats to friends and neighbors, give to those in need, and have a special celebratory meal complete with hamentashen, the three sided pastry associated with the holiday.  The Megillah or Scroll of Esther, telling the story of the holiday, is read, dramatized and acted out in satire with a Purim Spiel in synagogue.  Celebration is typically a rowdy affair, punctuated by booing and noise-making. Purim is a topsy-turvy festival with tones of Carnival where so much is upside-down, hidden and unexpected just as in the Purim story.  

The Story of Purim

Under the rule of King Ahashverosh, Haman, the king's prime minister, plots to get rid of all of the Jews of Persia. Set in Shushan, the walled city capital of Persia, the King seeks a new queen after he banishes Vashti, his previous queen, upon her refusal to entertain the king and his friends. The King holds a pageant and selects Esther who does not divulge her Jewish identity.  Meanwhile, the evil Haman, rid the land of all of the Jews when Mordecai, a Jew and a relative of Esther’s, refuses to bow down to him even though it is contrary to the king’s decree.  Mordecai and Esther manage to plot a plan of their own to reveal Esther’s identity to the king so that the Jews will be saved and at the same time to put an end to Haman and his hateful intentions. The plan is a great success and the anticipated destruction and sorrow becomes a time for joy and celebration. Click here for a great children’s version of the story.

Purim is in some ways unusual as well as having aspects in common with other holidays. First, Esther is the only biblical book in which God is not mentioned. Second, on Purim what is typically not tolerated in society, such as drinking and partying to excess, is allowed and even encouraged.  And, Purim, like Hanukkah, had traditionally been viewed as a minor festival, but is now elevated to a major holiday for the hope and encouragement it provides to a Jewish community that was often a minority in a hostile majority culture.  Over the centuries, Haman became the embodiment of every persecutor in every land where Jews were oppressed. The significance of Purim lies not so much in how it began, but in what it has become: a thankful and joyous affirmation of Jewish survival against all odds. 

Purim is a holiday rich in values: for the bravery of Mordechai and Queen Vashti in standing up for their beliefs when they were being bullied, Queen Esther stood up for the entire Jewish people and saved them.  Purim Also reminds us that all people are unique and that our differences should be celebrated.

The following are just some of the festivities in Marin and beyond.  For links to more activities, visit the Facebook group of your local family concierge:

Click here for a link to the Purim story for children and other Purim activities.

Events & Activities

Family Hamantash Bake, Sunday, March 5, 10am, Chabad Jewish Center, Novato

Shushan’s Bazaar Family Purim Celebration, Saturday, March 11, 10-1pm; Congregation Emanu-El, San Francisco

Roaring 20's Purim Party, Fairmont Hotel, Chabad of San Francisco

 Purim in the Land Oz, Saturday, March 11, 5:30pm, Congregation Rodef Sholom, San Rafael

Purim Like It’s 5777, Saturday, March 11, 6-11pm, Pre-Party Family Friendly Puppet Show and Costume Parade, Full Megillah Reading and Dance Party with Shamati, Berkeley

The Ultimate Purim Party: Saturday, March 11, 7pm; JCC of the East Bay, Berkeley

Purim in the Jungle, Sunday, March 12, 4pm, Chabad Jewish Center, Novato

Purim Palooza: for families with children 0-3 and their siblings: Sunday, March 12, 9:30-11:30am; Osher Marin JCC

Super Fun Sundays: Purim Party with the Bug Family Band: Sunday, March 12, 10-11:30am; Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco

Purim Family Fun, Sunday, March 12, 10am-12:30pm, Presidio Public Library, San Francisco, RSVP, email TaliahLanger@Yahoo.com

East Bay Purim Party: Sunday, March 12, JCC of the East Bay, Berkeley

Purim of the Arts: Thursday, March 12, 5:00 – 8:00 pm, Chabad of Mill Valley

For more information about Kesher, join the Kesher Facebook Group which is a place for to find events, host your own get-togethers, give and get advice, share resources, connect with other families with Jewish kids or just follow along in case something strikes your fancy. 

Do you know any other great Purim festivals happening in the Bay Area for families? Please leave a comment.