Starting at sunset on Thursday, February 25 and ending in the evening of Friday, February 26, the Jewish holiday of Purim celebrates the survival of the Jewish people from extermination in Persia.
Purim commemorates the Book of Esther in the Jewish month of Adar. Haman, the royal vizier to King Ahasuerus, planned to kill all of the Jews in the city of Shushan. However, when the king discovers that his wife Queen Esther is Jewish, he reverses the decree and instead kills Haman.
Jewish families typically celebrate the holiday by dressing in costume, attending carnivals, and gathering to make triangular cookies called hamantaschen. It is also customary for the synagogue to put on a spiel, or a play that re-enacts the story of Purim.
This year, COVID-19 has forced these classic traditions to take place virtually.
My synagogue annually hosts a hamantaschen-making event as people of all ages gather in the reception hall to bake the jelly-filled cookies. To enforce social-distancing rules, the rabbis hosted a Zoom call so we each could create the Purim delicacy in our homes. While the experience was less personal, I still enjoyed celebrating the holiday with the rest of my Jewish community.
Another drastic change was the removal of the spiel from the Purim celebration schedule. Rather than performing a play for the rest of the synagogue, a webinar of last year’s spiel was released to each of the families. The carnival was also canceled, but children were still invited to dress up in costume for religious school.
Despite these differences, the Purim celebration still commemorated the freedom of the Jewish people. Even though annual traditions transitioned to a virtual platform and communities gather online rather than in person, people still told the story of Purim and celebrated Jewish life.