A celebration commemorating one of many stories of Jewish survival against all odds, Purim holds a special place in the hearts of most Jews.
With the recent surge in anti-Semitism around the world, many of us are reflecting on the past, reinforcing the urgency to remember those murdered in the Holocaust, and learn from those who went on to build inspiring lives. “Never forget” was our commitment, and as the years continue to pass, we must live up to our obligation to remember and celebrate life and take care of those who survived.
Toward this goal, the American Zionist Movement partnered with The Israel Forever Foundation and Yad Ezra V’Shulamit to build a bridge between American Jews and Holocaust survivors in Israel, along with community members from different generations, for the packing and distribution of mishloach manot (Purim baskets) that were delivered to survivors in 6 communities around Israel.
The “Purim Connection,” initiated 30 years ago by the American Zionist Movement, was a trailblazer program designed to bring Purim joy to often neglected communities in Israel. Past recipients of this initiative included the Jerusalem border patrol, children under missile fire in Sderot, Ethiopian olim, and women and children in shelters.
Purim is time of celebration, costumes and the mitzvah of giving to others and increasing their joy. What better way could do that than by helping survivors feel cherished and creating for them “a Purim to Remember”.
Though this year’s Purim campaign, not only were we able to touch the hearts of survivors, but we also had a chance to include olim and groups studying in Israel, as well as support local businesses in Israel and demonstrate our Zionist passion by giving blue and white for Purim and all year round.
Not just about sweet treats, these baskets were full of strength, unity, and messages from Jews around the world. Along with the ladies of AMIT in Jerusalem and other volunteers, there are some who created their own events in their local communities for packing and delivering these baskets of blessings.
The mitzvah of giving mishloach manot derives from the Book of Esther. It is meant to increase love and friendship among Jews as a counter to Haman’s assertion that the Jewish people are characterized by strife and disunity. Today, thousands of years later, we still aim to unify as Jews all over the world, and show Israelis we care.
As we gathered with the survivors at AMCHAJerusalem, their smiling faces showed just how much the generosity of Jews all over the world made a difference in their lives.
But it was their words of appreciation that demonstrated the meaning of this global giving initiative: “You have lifted our hearts by remembering us and joining us to celebrate. Celebration,” as one woman put it, “is what we live for.”
Written by Elana Heideman and Karen Rubinstein, outgoing Executive Director of the American Zionist Movement