Purim Palooza: Maverick students embrace Jewish traditions

Minnesota State students gathered in the CSU Tuesday for the celebration of Purim, a holiday celebrated between the Jewish community, hosted by the Jewish Student Association. 

Purim celebrates the salvation of the Jewish people in the ancient Perisan empire from the plot of the ancient Persian king’s vizier, Haman, to kill and annihilate all the Jews in Persia in a single day. The story of Purim is told in the Book of Esther, also known as the Megillah reading. 

President Abigail Raper and vice president Talia Rodich shared the history behind the creation of Purim. 

“It started in the fourth century BCE in Persia and there was a king, Ahasuerus, who had a wife, Queen Vashti, and she was executed for failing to follow his orders. He then wanted to find a new wife and had a beauty pageant, and then found a Jewish girl, Esther, who wanted to be the new queen,” Rodich said. “But then, there was her cousin Mordecai, who kind of was leading the whole thing. But she didn’t want to classify that she was Jewish because otherwise she would be turned away and executed.”

After Esther became the new queen, Haman was appointed vizier of the empire which then led to the conflict between Mordecai and Haman, setting off Haman’s plot and convincing the king to issue a decree to eliminate all the Jews. 

“During that time, I believe it was Haman who said,‘Everyone, bow down to me,’ and Mordecai did not. Haman declared ‘You know what? To show you, I’m gonna kill all of the Jewish people in this town.’ And so then everyone’s like, ‘We got to figure out a plan for that not to happen,’ because Esther’s in this space of authority in some ways as queen,” Raper said. “They worked some things through it. There were things like, “Gather them, gather the Jewish people to fast and repent, and then we’ll give the king a feast to make him happy.”  

During the feast, Esther ended up revealing her Jewish identity to the king, who in turn was enraged with Haman. Haman was then executed and Mordecai was appointed the new vizier, ending with a newly issued decree to give Jews the right to defend themselves against their enemies. 

For the celebration of Purim at MSU, hamantaschen, a traditional Purim food translated as Haman’s ears, was shared with students. Other activities included making masks as Purim is a festive holiday and reading the Megillah which contains the story of Purim and having students cheer for Esther’s name and boo for Haman’s name. 

With Purim being a traditional holiday among the Jewish community, Rodich and Raper shared how they personally celebrate Purim with their families and community. 

“We usually go to a synagogue and do the Megillah reading and you usually dress up in costumes and it’s kind of like Halloween, but you’re not going to go door-to-door trick or treating. But we dress up and we just have fun,” Rodich said. “Usually a lot of synagogues will do something like a little carnival. We’ll do some carnival games and just engage the community, and that’s kind of how we celebrate.”

“I know my family and I go to restaurants and we go over and we start reading the Megillah. Just having a good time. That’s pretty much the main criteria that my family does,” Raper said. 

Minnesota State is a diverse campus where students are allowed to celebrate their identities. For the JSA, celebrating a Jewish holiday such as Purim, creates a huge impact for students who are Jewish and for students who wish to learn more about Judaism and its culture.  

“We’re doing Purim just because it fits into this semester, but I think it’s just important to bring it to the university just to raise awareness to what the holiday is since it’s a very minor holiday, and just kind of show that there are Jews on campus and we’re here and come hang out with us,” Rodich said. “I think it’s really nice that there’s other students who are willing to learn and celebrate it with us. Just because there hasn’t been a lot of Jewish representation on campus for the past few years so it’s nice to be able to bring it back and celebrate with students who are curious and want to learn more.”

“The main thing is the community. I didn’t really grow up in a very practicing Jewish household, so this is a great experience just to get that sense of community over here as well,” Raper said. 

For more information on JSA, visit https://mavcentral.mnsu.edu

Write to Anahi Zuniga at anahi.zuniga@mnsu.edu

Header Photo: The Jewish Student Association hosted a celebration for the Jewish holiday, Purim, in the Centennial Student Union Tuesday. (Nate Tilahun/The Reporter)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.