Would you like to organize a new reading of Megillat Esther? Below is a timeline with questions to consider as you begin planning your megillah reading.
Three Months Before Purim
Choosing a Time
- When will you hold your megillah reading: in the evening, in the morning, both? Which time is more convenient or needed for potential participants?
- What time will you hold your reading relative to other readings in your community? Will yours run concurrently with a megillah reading in the main sanctuary/traditional reading, or before or after that megillah reading?
- How will you accommodate the prayer service (ma’ariv or shacharit) that accompanies the megillah reading? Will participants daven together at your megillah reading, or will they daven elsewhere and attend your event only for the reading?
Choosing a Location
Where will you hold the megillah reading? In your synagogue? In a participant’s home? In a communal space like the JCC? Does the location charge a rental fee?
Forming a Committee
Who is assisting you? Have you formed a committee and divided up tasks? You will likely need people to help with the following tasks:
- Securing a space and scheduling a time
- Engaging with your rabbi and community
- Recruiting other people to join you
- Identifying and working with readers and gabbaiot
- Ritual logistics
- Obtaining a megillah on a klaf (parchment)
- Marketing and Publicity
- Logistical support on the day-of: setting up chairs, procuring (and schlepping)megillot and gragers, greeting people, taking care of babysitting, making sure the service runs smoothly, providing refreshments.
Identifying Your Target Audience
Who will attend your megillah reading? Will it be for women only? Will it be co-ed? Is it aimed for members of one congregation only, or will you reach out to others?
What type of atmosphere will you create? Will children be welcome at the megillah reading? Will you provide child-care to encourage mothers with young children to attend and participate? Will you be a stickler for ensuring that every word is heard? How will you welcome new readers and attendees?
Two Months Before Purim
Readers and Gabbaiot
- Compile a list of people who know (or are interested in learning) how to leyn megillah, and invite them to read at your megillah reading. Assign each reader a selection of verses, taking into account number and difficulty of verses and readers' experience and preferences.
- Identify two gabbaiot and invite them to participate.
- Will the rabbi and the community support you?
- Can you get support from another synagogue or school to lend you space, help you locate a klaf, help with learning to leyn, advertising and other logistics?
- Who are the veteran women and men in the community who can help you and give you advice? Can liberal rabbis or community day schools be helpful?
Creating a Budget
Have you considered all of your possible expenses: chair rental, space rental, food, childcare, flyers, advertising, purchasing a klaf? Have you considered where you may receive in-kind donations? Have you considered potential sources of funding?
One Month Before Purim
Babysitting and Childcare
Will you offer babysitting or childcare to accommodate parents who are leyning or attending? Have you hired babysitters and organized activities appropriate for different ages? Do you have a childcare space near the room where the reading will be taking place? In some cases, it is an incentive for women to get involved if there are childcare options.
- Have you secured all the necessary equipment: chairs, shulhan, klaf, mechitza (if needed), and perhaps megillot and gragers?
- Will there be food (especially if the reading is at night, post-fast)? And if so, have you ordered food?
Check Readers’ Progress
Have you checked in with all of your readers to see that they are on track? What support can you offer new readers who might be struggling to learn their verses? Will you require each reader (or each new reader) to recite their verses for you before Purim? Do you have a klaf that readers can use to practice?
Marketing, Advertising and Publicity
How will you advertise? Will you focus on your community or synagogue, or will you advertise to the larger community?
- Can you advertise at your synagogue?
- What social media channels do you have at your disposal – Twitter, Facebook, shul newsletters, school newsletters, community listservs, emails, etc.?
- Have you asked all of your committee members to use their social media channels and personal networks?
- Have you called key community members to personally invite them and make sure they (and their friends) are attending?
- Don’t forget to double check that all information is included and all details are correct in all announcements.
- You may want to consider a nice graphic image to go with your announcement, to grab people’s attention. If you know any graphic designers in your community, you may want to ask someone to volunteer to make a nice graphic advertisement, or use a service like Fiverr to outsource the work at a low budget.
One Week Before Purim
Roles and Responsibilities
- Have you reminded your readers and gabbaiot what they are doing and where they have to be?
- Have you tested your readers?
- Do your committee members all know what they are meant to do?
- Have you double checked on the food, chairs, babysitters, etc?
- Do you have the keys to the room and all necessary permissions?
- Do you have the klaf, megillot and gragers?
- Have you sent out final reminders with all logistical information on all of your channels – Facebook, Twitter, shul newsletters, emails, etc?
How will you create a festive atmosphere? Can you supply extra graggers and masks for children? How will you ensure that all your organizers are not only focused on logistics but also on atmosphere?
By now, everything should be ready and in place. Put on your costume, grab your megillah and gragger, and smile at everyone who walks in the door! It will be a fantastic event, one people will remember all year round!