Emily Kirschenbaum
Emily Kirschenbaum
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Why I’m not celebrating Purim this year

How can we celebrate the Jews defeating an enemy that sought to destroy them when right now we, as Jews, are defeating ourselves?
Illustrative: Ultra-Orthodox men celebrate Purim in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood, on March 11, 2020. In retrospect, it may have been a super-spreader event. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
Illustrative: Ultra-Orthodox men celebrate Purim in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood, on March 11, 2020. In retrospect, it may have been a super-spreader event. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Yes, I helped my 9-year-old daughter put her costume together.

Yes, I purchased all the stuff for her to make mishloach manot for her friends.

Yes, I signed up for a slot at megillah-reading because she asked to go.

No, I had no plans of going had she not asked.

No, I did not make mishloach manot for friends or even do the virtual ones.

No, I am not going to or hosting a Purim seudah even for my immediate family (although my husband did make meat hamentashen that are really  good and we will eat those!)

I’ve never been a fan of Purim. I find the costumes stressful. I hate the social pressure of who made the most creative mishloach manot and who was or was not invited to which seudah. I don’t understand why teenage boys all over Israel need to dress as half-naked angels. 

But this year it’s even worse. Because Purim 2020 was the last time life was normal. And Purim 2021 means it’s been a full year of this pandemic and despite the vaccinations it just doesn’t feel like we will ever go back to that carefree time. 

I don’t feel like rejoicing. I don’t feel like celebrating a time when the Jews defeated an enemy that sought to destroy us. 

How can we celebrate that when right now we, as Jews, are defeating ourselves?

When I was a kid, my Jewish day school used to take us to the symphony. And before every trip, without fail, we were given a lecture: you must behave appropriately. And remember, you are not just representing yourselves, but also our school, and also the entire Jewish community. 

People see Jews behaving in a certain way and make assumptions about all Jews. Whether it’s justified or not, that’s just a fact. 

So what is the world supposed to think when pictures of thousands of Haredi Jews are attending a funeral in the midst of a lockdown when thousands of others are sitting at home saying goodbye to their loved ones via Zoom? And what about the religious Jews who forged permission to get on a plane to fly to Israel, breaking who knows how many laws, while hundreds of other Israelis remain stranded due to airport closures? And don’t get me started on the ones who faked negative corona tests so they could get on a plane and endanger all the other passengers. 

These are the people who are supposed to be the most religious. They (supposedly) hold the Torah in the utmost of regard. They are the ones whose learning “protects” the rest of us (you know, those of us whose sons have or will be in the army, surely they aren’t the ones actually protecting us, but I digress). They are somehow holier than I am because my hair is uncovered and I unabashedly go out in public in shorts and a tank top. 

Yes, I realize I am making a major generalization based on the behavior of few (although sadly it’s way more than just a few). But I can’t celebrate a holiday that is meant to represent overcoming hardships and defeating an enemy when we are in the midst of extreme hardship and are just defeating ourselves.

About the Author
Emily Kirschenbaum planned to spend one year in Israel 13 years ago...She now resides happily in Ra'anana with her husband, 3 Israeli-American kids and the cutest dog in the world. In her professional life, she runs a content marketing business (www.purplechia.com) with an awesome partner!
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