Three great ways to celebrate Purim at USC
Posted February 22, 2013 at 11:35 am in Lifestyle
Whether it be days off from school, dreidels and latkes or lavish holiday meals cooked by the stereotypical Jewish mother who is convinced that her baby is not eating enough in college, it seems every calendar month has some kind of Jewish holiday. February is no exception to that rule, Purim falls right during midterm season, giving students something to celebrate when taking a break from their studies.
For students who are used to going all out for Purim (outrageous costume parades/contests, community-wide megillah reading) it might feel as if it wonât be possible to celebrate the holiday as significantly here on campus. But it is.
For those who arenât familiar with the holiday, Purim celebrates what most Jewish holidays tend to celebrateâ the salvation of the Jewish people from a plot to destroy them. As an old joke goes, âThey tried to kill us. We won. Letâs eatâ.
More specifically, the holiday celebrates the story of the Jewish people being saved in the ancient Persian Empire under the rule of King Ahasueras (thought to be King Xerxes I) after a Jewish woman named Esther, along with her uncle Mordechai, convinced the Persian king to disregard his advisor Hamanâs plot to kill the Persian Jews. During the holiday, it is traditional to engage in public recitations of the Scroll of Esther, exchange gifts in the form of mishloach manot (gift baskets of food and drink), give charity to the needy, enjoy a hearty festive meal and engage in general merriment, usually in the forms of dressing in hilarious costumes and drinking copious amounts of wine.
In fact, there are three very large, fun ways a student (Jewish or non-Jewish) could celebrate Purim here at USC:
Check with the Jewish organizations on campus
These include Chabad, Hillel, and JAM, all very friendly organizations who are always looking to enhance any studentâs Jewish experience at USC. Chabad in particular has planned a jam-packed week of activities- if you missed Wednesday nightâs hamentashen baking and decorating session, you can still attend multiple other Purim celebrations! According to Rabbi Dov Wagner of Chabad, this weekend holds in store both a Persian Shabbat dinner on Friday night (6:30 p.m at the Chabad house) and a âPurim in the Wildâ party on Saturday night that will include a DJ, masquerade, food, hamentashen, and even a giant blow-up gorilla. Students can get more information from the Facebook event here.
âIâm most excited for the hamentashen,â says Casey Fullman, a freshman majoring in business administration.
Additionally, says Wagner, students will have the opportunity to attend megillah readings on Sunday as well, at 11 a.m and 5 p.m, the latter of which is followed by a Purim meal at the Chabad house (which requires an RSVP).
Plan a Mishloach Manot gift exchange with your friends
Just because youâre a college student on a college budget, doesnât mean that you still canât engage in the mitzvah of Mishloach Manot. You wouldnât really have to go out of your way to do itâ stuff your baskets to the brim with hamentashen from Chabad, candies and snacks from TroGro/Seeds and maybe even fun little toys from Dollar Dollar. If youâre short on cashâand you feel like living on the edgeâ you could try sneaking out (gasp) more than one pastry or fruit from EVK. Just be careful as this could backfire if you get caught and get slapped with a hefty $100 fine.
This gift exchange could be either Secret Santa-style or White Elephantâ either option promises to be a good time. Get a group together and decide where you want to hold the gift exchangeâ you could do it inside, and make it a fun night in, or choose to hold it at a favorite local restaurant.
Find a friend who lives in the area and spend the holiday with them
At USC, there are plenty of students who are local, and many of them tend to prefer to celebrate the holidays in the comfort of their own home.
âThis Purim, I am most excited to go home and bake hamentashen with my mother to be delivered to relatives, friends, and needy families in the neighborhood,â says Yoni Arbel, a sophomore majoring in economics who lives not far from USC.
Joining friends like Yoni could be a great way to experience Purim in a different, potentially more personal wayâ sometimes all you really need is a great home-cooked meal. And, just like the other activities, you donât have to be Jewish to participate.
âIâm Catholic, but that doesnât mean Iâm not going to go home with my friend from L.A this weekend to experience Purim for the first time,â says Jared Brow, a freshman majoring in international relations global business and Spanish. Â âBeing Catholic shouldn’t restrict me to only knowing about my own faith. I enjoy learning about other religions and their traditions so that I can have a more well-rounded religious experience. I’m excited to learn what Purim is all about!â
Whichever method of celebration you do choose to utilize this holiday, donât forget that youâre not aloneâ Â according to USC Hillel, an estimated twelve percent of USCâs student population is Jewish, so thereâs bound to be multiple Purim celebrations going on. Eat, drink, and be merryâ Chag Sameach!