Instead of going through another year of the same old youth group carnival, the same old spiel of Broadway retreads, and the same old dry Megillah reading, we can learn from each other to create a Purim of real, heartfelt joy. Come on, people, I want to hear your best ideas!
My friend, Rabbi Riqi Kosovske of Congregation Beit Ahavah in Northampton, Massachusetts, has a couple of ideas that I really love. Her congregation is currently planning its third annual "Queen Esther's Drag Ball," a Purim night event for adults held at a local dance club. The following day they will have their fourth annual "Megillah Reading and Purim Justice Fair." Rabbi Riqi says she got the idea of a "justice fair" from IKAR, the joyful and innovative congregation in Los Angeles.
She explains that, in her congregation's Purim fair, there are no junky plastic prizes. For an entry fee of two to five dollars (discounts for those in costume), participants play games to win "Mitzvah Money." The Mitzvah Money is awarded freely at the booths where participants play different kinds of games. After playing, participants take their winnings to the "Justice Table" where they can divide it any way they wish by placing it into six large tzedakah boxes. Each box has the name of a social justice organization and a poster that explains what the organization does. At the end of the evening, members of the youth group count the Mitzvah Money in each box to determine the percentage that each organization will receive of the money raised at the event.
I love this idea because it gets right to the heart of what I mean when I say that we need innovative ideas to make Judaism more joyful. It promotes broad community participation in an activity that is fun, memorable and makes people feel good about being Jewish. Most importantly, it gives meaning to the holiday and reinforces the mitzvah of Matanot LaEvyonim—making gifts to the needy on Purim.
What are your best ideas for making Purim even more joyful? Please respond with your comments so that your ideas can be planted like seeds in Jewish communities everywhere to create a more joyful and meaningful Judaism.