This month, Jews from across Metro Detroit gathered in Hamtramck for a Purim party with a focus on public education. Detroit Jews for Justice put on the event to draw attention to the threats posed by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and other policy-makers — and to encourage the Jewish community to mobilize for education justice.
On the outside, Ant Hall is a squat and unassuming event space. On March 12, the inside was a raucous and joyful celebration of Purim, Jewish community activism and comedy theater.
Over brunch and mimosas, more than 150 attendees networked and laughed to the sounds of the Corn Potato String Band, a folk ensemble led by Jewish local natives.
A short play was presented, a political satire featuring comedic versions of the heroes of Purim: Queen Esther and her uncle Mordecai as education activists — and caricatures of DeVos and President Donald Trump taking the roles of the villain Haman and King Achashverosh. The audience warmly received the brief tale, wherein Esther laments the closing of public schools, then saves the day.
Josh Klein attended with his 1-year-old son. “I support the movement to bring power to teachers and students, especially in poor areas,” he said. “It’s an issue that doesn’t affect just Detroit schools, but a vast majority of students in Michigan — anyone who can’t afford $10,000 per semester for private school.”
Lauren and Cameron Fink felt encouraged by what they saw. “It was fun. There’s so much discovery going on today, and it’s good to see solidarity,” Lauren said.
Hayley Sakwa, a resident and organizer at the Detroit City Moishe House, was all smiles. “I love this day,” she said. “I’ve been looking forward to it since last year. It’s relevant to the current political climate; it’s healing and fun.”
Like other attendees, though, she has grave concerns about the prospects for young Michiganders.
“If the Jewish community is to stay relevant, we need to start putting time and effort into issues like education because this is how young people are being Jewish.”
Learn more about Detroit Jews for Justice at www.detroitjewsforjustice.org.