Spreading Purim Joy, OU Calls on Synagogues in Pilot Program to Send Shalach Manot Gift Baskets
NOTE TO EDITORS: A SYNAGOGUE OR SYNAGOGUES IN YOUR COMMUNITY HAVE BEEN CALLED UPON BY THE OU TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS PILOT PROGRAM. THEY ARE LISTED AT THE END OF THIS PRESS RELEASE.
As part of its “Reaching Out, Changing Lives” kiruv (outreach) initiative now in development, an Orthodox Union program is encouraging observance of the upcoming holiday of Purim by calling on congregants in OU synagogues across North America to send Shalach Manot holiday gift packages to those in the Jewish community who might be unfamiliar with Purim and its traditions.
In a letter to some 36 synagogues across the country participating in this pilot program, chosen because of their openness to new ideas and initiatives, Frank Buchweitz, National Director of Community Services and Special Projects wrote, “Purim presents a wonderful opportunity for synagogue membership to reach out in a positive manner to Jewish individuals and families who may be beginning or navigating their journey through Judaism, as well as those who may be unaffiliated.”
In addition to distributing the Shalach Manot, he called on the OU shuls to “encourage members to invite co-workers, acquaintances, and/or neighbors to join you in the Megillah reading (the biblical Book of Esther) and synagogue festivities,” as well as to share in the Seudat Purim, the festive meal.
The packages will be accompanied by an explanatory card prepared by NCSY, the OU’s youth program, on the meaning of the holiday. Besides a basic overview of Purim, the card explains the various aspects of observance – including the Megillah reading, Shalach Manot, Matanot L’evyonim (gifts to the needy), and the seudah.
The card also discusses dressing in costume; why to be proud of the holiday; and the difference between Purim and another dress-up holiday, Halloween. “The difference between the mitzvah of Shalach Manot and Trick-or-Treating is all the difference in the world,” the card declares. “The first is about giving to others. The second is about how much one can get for oneself.”
“We emphasize our pride in Purim and therefore encourage those receiving Shalach Manot to express their pride in Judaism,” declared OU President Stephen J. Savitsky. “The card states, ‘We use feasting, costumes and gifts of food to publicize the miracles that God performed for us and to share the goodness He has given us with others. What could make one prouder to be Jewish than Purim?’ By getting this message out at Purim, we are helping to bring Jews closer to observance – which we hope will be continued at Passover, a month hence. Increasing observance is the essence of kiruv, and there is no better time for kiruv than a holiday,” Mr. Savitsky explained.
The card was written by NCSY’s Rabbi Jack Abramowitz, who produces a wide array of materials explaining Judaism to those who are not yet observant. “Rabbi Abramowitz has synthesized the holiday in a way that teaches lessons to newcomers as well as to those who have been observing Purim all their lives,” explained OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb.
“Based on our NCSY experiences, we know that the card will make Purim and its observances more meaningful to all who receive it. The greatest gift the Orthodox Union can give at Purim is to increase observance of the holiday. Let us rejoice together.”
Participating Synagogues Are:
Los Angeles, Westwood Kehilla
Los Angeles, B'nai David-Judea Congregation
Toronto, Kehillat Shaarei Torah of Toronto
Willowdale, Congregation B'nai Torah
Stamford, Congregation Agudath Sholom
Boca Raton, Boca Raton Synagogue
Miami, Young Israel of Miami Beach
Indianapolis, Congregation B'nai Torah
Baltimore, Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion Congregation
Baltimore, Beth Tfiloh Congregation
Silver Spring, Kemp Mill Synagogue
East Brunswick, Young Israel of East Brunswick
Englewood, Congregation Ahavath Torah
Highland Park, Ohr Torah Congregation
Highland Park, Ohav Emeth Congregation
Livingston, Synagogue of the Suburban Torah Center
Teaneck, Congregation Bnai Yeshurun
Teaneck, The Jewish Educational Center
Bronx, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale
Bronx, Riverdale Jewish Center
Flushing, Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills
Great Neck, Great Neck Synagogue
Holliswood, Young Israel of Holliswood
Jamaica Estates, Young Israel of Jamaica Estates
New York, Lincoln Square Synagogue
New York, Congregation Ohab Zedek
New York, Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun
New York, Orach Chaim Congregation
New York, Adereth El Congregation
Oceanside, Young Israel of Oceanside
Staten Island, Young Israel of Staten Island
Wesley Hills, Kehillas Bais Yehuda
Woodmere , Young Israel of Woodmere
Charleston , Brith Sholom Beth Israel Congregation
Memphis, Anshei Sphard-Beth El Emeth Congregation
Dallas, Congregation Shaare Tefilla