By Elana Sztokman
I spent a wonderful Purim in Israel with a group of women (and a few husbands) from Connecticut. The group, a Melton Study Tour from the Jewish Federation of Greenwich, Connecticut, led by the incisive and energetic Pam Ehrenkranz, was traveling around Israel meeting people and discussing Judaism, history, and life. They decided to spend Purim eve in Modi’in, in order to see and experience the local partnership minyan, Kehillat Darchei Noam. Afterwards, they came to my house for a Purim l’chaim (toast) and a Purim text study.
The evening began with a bit of guesswork. Since they were all in masks and I was in a bright-pink wig, it took a moment for us to connect. The group, which included three sisters – Dena, Ruthanne and Phyllis – as well as Judy, Joan (and her husband Bob), and Pam (and her husband Matt), had traveled from Jerusalem to visit Darchei Noam in Modi’in. They were welcomed by Darchei Noam, a minyan that has been meeting in the Netiv Zevulun School since 2005, and hosted over three hundred people formegillah reading this year. The group from Connecticut enjoyed seeing both kids and adults in costume – including men dressed as pirates, fairies and cowboys, women dressed as witches, devils, and clowns, and an entire family dressed as M&Ms. We listened to women and men alternate reading the megillah– though Pam and I agreed that the women read with more expertise than the men. A highlight was when my friend Adina Sacks, dressed in a bright red wig and hippy attire, read two chapters with accompanying voices for different characters. Meanwhile, I got a little extra thrill when Pam took out her iPhone and followed along with the JOFA Megillah App!
After megillah reading, the group came to my house where we had a little Purim toast, learned a bit more about one another, and had a brief discussion about Judaism, feminism and Orthodoxy. We engaged in a feminist text study of Megillat Esther, exploring gender messages in the text, the relationship between Esther and Mordechai, the differences between Vashti and Esther, the similarities between Esther and Cinderella, and the ways that the writer of themegillah may have thought that he or she was promoting a positive image of Jewish women. The discussion was lively and stimulating and brought back fond memories of when I taught Melton courses in Melbourne, Australia, with similarly engaged, intelligent adults. It was a lot of fun, especially when two of my kids and my husband joined in the circle. (I discovered that my nine-year-old daughter, Meital, is already at home with the gender analysis of Bible!)
“I had no idea what to expect when you invited us to Modi’in and your home. What I found was a welcoming inclusive partnership minyan and an engaging text study (not to mention amazing pastries),” Pam wrote in an email the next day. “In addition, you really modeled hachnasat orchim (hospitality), and the value of text study with your sharp wit and deep insight. You cannot imagine the impact of receiving mishloach manot (Purim baskets) as we left. One of the women said being in your home was one of the highlights of the trip for her.”
This was such a great way to spend Purim, and I’m really delighted to have met this fantastic group! I’m looking forward to a continued relationship with the community of Greenwich, Connecticut. Thank you, Pam for being a great leader.
I’m always happy to welcome groups and missions in Israel, and I delight in any opportunity to explore gender issues, Israel and Judaism. If you have an upcoming mission to Israel, drop me a line and I’d love to discuss the possibilities with you. Elana.firstname.lastname@example.org, or 212-679-8500.