Sunday, February 28, 2010

All Together Now

When I was a kid, the Purim carnival was all about the Men’s Club – or so it seemed to me. They coordinated everything, food, games, moonbounce, tickets, prizes – it was their show. I was a kid, and my only concern was winning a goldfish. (Keeping it alive later was a lower priority and probability!)

Jump forward about 35 years. This afternoon was the Purim carnival at our temple. For a variety of reasons, I played a larger role that ever before, as did the members of the Religious School Committee. It was amazing!

Now its amazing-ness had nothing to do with anything I did. I tried very hard to follow the well-designed plan of our Family Educator, who has done it for years. And her foresight made everything work. What was amazing was what my changed perspective allowed me to see, and what I am certain was always there.

It’s about the numbers. A committee of 8 people planned the carnival, made the calls and made things happen. 14 people baked cakes for the cake walk. 20 people showed up early to join the maintenance staff in setting up. 12 adults and 82 kids (grades 4 – 12) came and ran the booths. The brotherhood brought a dozen to prepare and serve the food. Another dozen stayed to clean up. And during it all, they schmoozed. Some were already friendly with one another. Others were acquainted or met one another for the first time.

It was a thrill to watch! This is not the most intellectual, spiritual or educational event in our calendar. I was excited to see the connections being made, renewed and deepened. It occurred to me that with all of our wikis focusing on Hebrew, conferences on educational technology and blogs bemoaning the failure of institution X to reach goal Y, that we sometimes overlook the most important value of all – community. And that value is modeled and lived in many places, including in the kitchen as the “Pressure Cookers” of the Brotherhood get ready to feed several hundred people!

This all seems very kamuvan – obvious – but we often take it for granted. Look at the 28 Ideas, 28 Ideas blog. No, really, go there. It is really cool and interesting. More importantly for my point, most of the ideas there are creative explorations of how can better connect the Jewish people. In other words, it is about community. 21st century, hyper-connected and tech savvy, but community nonetheless. So let's keep our eye on the prize!

They tried to kill us. They failed. Let’s eat – together!

And now on to Pesach!


  1. Purim is a prime time for community activity at Kibbutz Kfar Etzion.
    A volunteer commmittee begins preparations for community mishloach manot weeks before Purim. All members sign up in advance for how many manot they want to purchase. The committee creates a list of manot to deliver with names of all those who are giving the "manah". The manot are bought from a group of disabled youngsters who provide the manot. The kibbutz volunteers prepare all the packages and greeting cards and each family gets the manah to deliver to another kibbutz family. The rest of the sum collected is distributed to tzedaka outside the kibbutz.
    The Matanot l'evyonim committee establishes contact with a number of tzedaka organizations to make sure that the money pledged by the members on Purim will be delivered to needy on Purim.
    The education committee works with the kibbutz kids to plan and run the Purim fair on Purim morning with rides, games, prizes and music.

    A number of kibbutz members volunteer to read the megillah a number of times for the various minyanim. In the last few years we have a women's reading where many women each prepare on chapter of the Megillah for the Women's Minyan.

    On Purim night we have a community party, planned by a volunteer committee who choose & announce the theme, plan the entertainment and food and the costume contest.
    A number of photographers work to get the pics online by the next morning -

    Another volunteer committee plans the community Seudat Purim for the whole community, including menu, entertainment, decorations, etc.

    Our kibbutz with about 120 families has a truly communal Purim experience, encompassing many facets of our religious, social and cultural life enriching the entire community.

  2. And ultimately, community is about relationships. As educators, it's our job to figure out how to nurture those relationships. In person is great. But sometimes, online works - we shouldn't discount that. Online community is real, even if it's not the community we're used to. It's real for some of our constituents, many of whom are trying to decide whether or not to join our synagoues (or why they should).