The William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History offers proof of Purim’s rank as a holiday with 7,464 mentions.
Purim begins tonight, Thursday, Feb. 25, or the 14th day of Adar. This is the really fun holiday that celebrates the survival of the Jews after Queen Esther and Mordechai thwarted a plot by Haman, the royal vizier to the Persian King, to kill all the Jews in ancient Persia in the 4th century BCE. In short, Purim commemorates survival for Jews and a victory over prejudice and antisemitism.
Celebrating Purim includes costumes, readings of the Megillah, booing and hissing at Haman’s name and, of course, after fasting, munching some hamantashen and, perhaps, some kreplach. It also mandates acts of charity. It is a joyous holiday.
The William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History offers proof of Purim’s rank as a holiday with 7,464 mentions. Every year, from 1916 to present, the Chronicle and the JN have carried stories and announcements for Purim celebrations. Most of the reading is a lot of fun.
Not all the Purim reports are joyful. In the first mention of Purim in the March 17, 1916, issue of the Jewish Chronicle, the editorial “Purim 5675,” notes a paradox: the suffering of many Jews during WWI while American Jews enjoyed “a period of unprecedented prosperity and progress.”
During World War II, in the March 19, 1943, issue of the JN, read “The Inner Meaning of Purim” by Abraham Burstein, or the more sobering “Our Last Purim” by Judge Louis Levinthal, president of the Zionists of America, speaking about 10 years of Hitler in power in Germany as a contemporary Haman.
But, most of the Purim readings match the holiday’s spirit. On Feb., 27, 1953, the JN published the music and lyrics for “Purim Time is Fun.” Or see the Feb. 24, 1956, issue that lists all the Purim celebrations across Detroit, from Temple Israel to Young Israel.
Over the years, the JN has also published what can be considered “Purim primers.” For example, see Elizabeth Applebaum’s “Happy Purim” summary of the holiday in the March 9, 2006, JN, or her “Happy Days are Here Again” (Feb. 26, 1999). There are also more practical articles such as “Making a Purim Costume Safe” (March 2, 1990).
Purim celebrations have changed with the impact of modern societal influences such as radio and television, or wars and economic strife and, most recently, the digital world. For example, see “Purim on the Internet” in the March 2, 2001, issue of the JN. This was a very prescient article.
The real fun reading begins when, after the 1980s, the JN began to print more photos as well as add more color to its pages. “Hooray for Purim” features photos of the children from Akiva Hebrew Day School (March 3, 1994) or see Noa and Eitan Pergament in their Purim costumes (Feb. 25, 2010). There are also great photos from celebrations at Beth Shalom (March 31, 2005), Shaarey Zedek (March 24, 2003) and Chabad’s Richardson Center (March 28, 2003). Perhaps the most colorful of all was Shaarey Zedek’s “Purim Extravaganza” announcement two years ago (Feb. 22, 2018).
I think we all could use a bit of fun after a rough 2020. Happy Purim!
Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.