On Purim, Jews around the world celebrate and observe four basic mitzvot. For many years, organized communal projects have successfully combined elements of these mitzvot and raised large sums in the process. With food as a central theme, the projects commonly involve mishloach manot, but matanot l’evyonim and pirsumei nisa of the Purim miracle are also included. Around our region, individual shuls have unique approaches. Each year, new creative themes are developed for the shuls’ packages.
“It is exciting to be part of the process!” expressed Sarra Lorbert, co-chair of Young Israel of New Rochelle’s Purim project. “We work for months trying to find a great concept and new products to present a theme.” This year, YINR’s theme is Pizza, Pasta, and Purim. Members receive a red insulated delivery bag, with Italian products and a “delivery menu” containing an original recipe combining many of the items. “We searched for products that were a little different and unique but still palatable and appealing for everyday use,” explained Mickey Nyer, another YINR co-chair. “We selected products based on aesthetics, durability and purpose.”
A portion of the funds raised is distributed to poor people on Purim day by Rabbi Fink and his delivery volunteers. The remainder of the funds supports various YINR Women’s League programs throughout the year. “Most importantly, these funds are used by the Women’s League shiva committee to supply meals and other needs in shiva houses, and the Kesher program whose chesed committee provides discreetly for families in crisis in our neighborhood,” explained Lorbert.
Adina Shrage of the Young Israel of White Plains outlined this year’s YIWP theme of Baseball and Summer. “We tried to find objects that fit that theme such as ‘home plate’ peanut butter, beer, pretzel challahs, Nathan’s mustard, late July chips, Cracker Jacks and a baseball bat filled with gum,” listed Shrage. “We included a sun-shaped ice pack with the shul logo. This is YIWP’s second biggest fundraiser of the year. Funds are used for running the shul, youth and other important projects to make the shul a great place for all.”
Marie Miller, co-chair of Young Israel of Scarsdale’s project, described this year’s package theme, Fun and Festive. “We had a red bag containing a red cake mold in the shape of a Jewish star, Twin Suns wine, Funfetti popcorn, Les Terroirs de Marrrackech olive oil, Oodles candy, pear and wine jam from Israel, Tuscanini crackers and, of course, hamantashen.” Miller revealed, “We started looking for items to put in the baskets nine months ago and had the star mold delivered last August. We decide what goes into the package, keeping in mind that our congregation is multi-generational. We have to keep kids and adults excited about getting the package. Three of our items are kosher for Passover, which is great for those who start Passover prep right after Purim. This year, Panim El Panim’s support of learning programs for female IDF soldiers, and Masbia Soup Kitchen, will get monetary donations. Masbia Soup Kitchen will also get at least 60 baskets donated, as we have an option for our members to donate a basket to the needy. We have a fabulous Sisterhood that works really hard to make sure we sell every basket, because the more we sell, the more the charities get.”
In Riverdale, RJC used a Shabbat theme. “With Purim falling out on Thursday, we thought it was a perfect fit,” explained Malki Bernstein. Their basket contains challah, wine and a custom Lucite kiddush card. “This is a great fundraiser for the RJC, and we are able to provide mishloach manot to the entire membership.”
Another approach to this project was taken by the Riverdale Minyan. Sarah Roer Bendheim explained that this year’s package did not have a particular theme. Rather, they decided to purchase pre-packaged mishloach manot from Yachad. The Riverdale Minyan found this a great opportunity to give mishloach manot as well as giving tzedekah to Yachad. The Riverdale Minyan’s mishloach manot program distributes to every member family on Purim night. Members also have the option to make a donation, but not specify individuals. They believe this gives their project a holistic and inclusive feeling.
The Chabad of Stamford continued its Mega Shalach Manos Project with a beautiful keepsake gift and high-end foods. “Our goal is to spread Purim cheer and the message of Purim to many!” explained Leah Shemtov. “This year’s package includes a beautiful Lucite tzedaka box, caramel popcorn, Belgian dairy chocolate gelt, hamantashen hand dipped in chocolate and gold dust, caramel vodka and a special custom chocolate bar with a message about charity, distributed in an organza bag. The tzedaka boxes were commissioned from China and custom-made to our specifications. We included a full-color printed guide about Purim. We search for items that are unique, tasty, gourmet and fit the theme. Over the years we have done Russian nesting dolls in a Purim theme, Purim puppets, tea boxes, a bottle holder and puzzles.“
YI of Scarsdale’s Miller summarized, “It’s a lot of work, but it feels great knowing that our shul makes a difference in people’s lives, not only through donations but also the special treat so many people get by getting this bag of goodies, making their Purim bright and joyous as Adar should be!”
By Judy Berger