Beverly Kent Goldenberg
Life Member, Hadassah Greater Detroit

My Purim Story

Photo courtesy of Hadassah
Photo courtesy of Hadassah

My mother, Jennie Levin Kent, had a large family of siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins who immigrated to the United States from Poland in the early 1900s. Not only were they relatives, but, friends and helpmates, too.

As the families grew and the next generation was born, they created a family club, the Levin Family Club. Every Saturday night, with kids in tow, they met at someone’s home. First, there was a formal meeting with minutes, agenda and a sergeant at arms to keep the order and quiet the boisterous. The meeting was followed by bagels, sweets, coffee and alcohol, then card games: men deep into poker, women into talking, mahjong, or gin rummy while the children ran around, played hide and seek until they collapsed into sleep.

In addition to Saturday nights, the Levin Family Club had a wiener roast for adults in July, a family picnic in August, and holiday celebrations for Purim and Chanukah. Family members rotated jobs and responsibilities. My mom was often on the Purim organizing committee. Purim was a highlight for the children: a Purim play, carnival games with prizes, hamantashen, cookies, cakes and other delectable goodies baked by our uncle, Meyer Levin, and his brothers who were professional bakers.

In 1948, instead of organizing the Purim festivities, my mother went to the hospital to deliver me. In commemoration of the holiday and in memory of one of my mother’s relatives, the name Esther, the hero of the Purim story, was incorporated into my Yiddish name, Blima Esther. Additionally, Esther, in Hebrew, is Hadassah. Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America is named after this empowered Jewish female hero, an organization of which both my mother and I are Life Members of. Hadassah’s mission is “tikkun olam,” repairing the world, one person at a time, which, as a social worker, is my professional motto. This wonderful organization operates two world-class research hospitals in Jerusalem, providing exemplary medical care to all, regardless of race, religion or nationality.

Since my name was Esther, growing up, the only costume for Purim or my birthday had to be Queen Esther. My birthday, when it fell on or near the holiday, was a masquerade party for all. This tradition, started in childhood, continued into my adulthood. My children, now grandchildren, caught the revelry of the holiday, from baking hamantashen, dressing up, (although sometimes as modern-day heroes), creating mishloach manot, giving tzedakah, and listening to the Megillat Esther. The name Esther is now in our next generation, too. Our granddaughter is Georgia Ester, “Estee.” The Levin Family Club continues still, with Purim celebrations, of course. Modifications have come over the years, even with zoom parties during the pandemic.

The character, Queen Esther, seemed to swirl around my life from childhood through adulthood. She continued to be a life-long participant in my Purim celebrations, as well as my birthdays. As a result, Queen Esther became more than just a character in literature, a Jewish woman in a holiday story, a regal symbol. Looking back, I realized that she became my role model.  Many lessons were learned from the Queen Esther story:

  • Love and care for your family and the Jewish people – support your people.
  • Appearance is important. Look as beautiful as possible. It’s an asset.
  • Incorporate Purim’s themes into life: Eat, Drink & Be Merry – entertain guests, have dinner parties, create fun.
  • Be honest. Truth wins.
  • Creativity – the straight-forward approach may not always work. Look for ways around the obstacles.
  • Teamwork – working together stimulates ideas, camaraderie is joyful, two minds produce more than one.
  • Preparation breeds perfection.
  • In joy & celebration, don’t forget others. To celebrate Purim, we rejoice, eat, drink, but are still required to give Tzedekah (charity) and Misloach Manot (goodies & gifts to others).
  • Mother’s adage is true – the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.
  • Marriage can be camaraderie and teamwork is its highest form.
  • It’s okay to let loose once in a while.
  • Celebrate holidays.

This year, I will celebrate Purim and my birthday with my grandkids in St Louis.

It’s Adar – Be happy! Enjoy your Purim fun, food, and drink. Happy Purim Everyone!

About the Author
Beverly Kent Goldenberg has been a Life Member of Hadassah since 1968. She was born and raised in Detroit and is a member of the Eleanor Roosevelt Chapter, Hadassah Greater Detroit. A social worker by profession, she earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Michigan. Beverly worked at Jewish Family Service and Hillel Day School of Metro Detroit for over 30 years, creating social skills programs for children that were modeled state-wide. Her English teachers always thought that she would become a journalist. Better late than never, she has been writing and publishing memoir pieces the past several years. Beverly and her Israeli husband, Michael, raised their two sons, Etai, a urologist, and Oren, a filmmaker, in Huntington Woods, Michigan, where they still reside today. Beverly is Savta to four grandchildren, Leo, Ami, Estee and Elie, and a grand-dog, Sparrow.
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