By Hannah Hostyk
For the women of Hollywood Florida, the Women’s Megillah reading is a highlight in our spiritual lives. This year almost 150 women collectively attended our evening and morning readings. As in years past, some of the women who attended had never heard the megillah read before. This year, some of our supporters generously donated new copies of the megillahfor the group, so that we now have our own dedicated copies of the megillah for future use. The first time we read megillah, six years ago, we consulted with Beth Hindin and Robyn Shoulson of the Women’s Megillah Reading in West Orange, NJ who gave us much needed advice and guidance. This year, our readers included four of our original readers who have read for the past six years (Diana Levy, Julia Steiner, Maxine Gill, and me!), two readers who have been reading for the past two years (Abby Schochet and Nessa Reich), one new reader (Sheryl Dennis), and our newest reader (Rina Reich) who, at thirteen, is our youngest reader ever (and the daughter of one of our readers).
Most of our readers and attendees are members of Young Israel of Hollywood and our readings, although not “official” readings because of the policy of the National Young Israel movement not permitting women’s readings (thus we not permitted to read in the physical building of our synagogue) are done under the supervision of our rabbi, Rabbi Edward Davis, with whom we consult for all halachic matters and who has been wonderfully supportive of our readings. Young Israel of Hollywood includes details of our readings in all of the Purim publicity sent out by the synagogue.
Our readings are “groggerless.” Initially, we decided not to use groggers because we were somewhat nervous about our ability to read with interruptions but we have kept this tradition because we feel that the quiet of the reading adds to the spiritual tone we have set over the years. We hold the readings in the home of one of our readers and the chairs are brought to her home by Young Israel. Each year we place a little favor on each chair, whether it be a bookmark or a bag of candy. For the past two years, all of the readers dressed in the same costume- last year we were the “Pink Ladies” and this year we were pirates.
We use a megillah lent to us by one of our readers. This beautiful megillah was commissioned by her grandfather eighty five years ago when he lived in Syria. He used to read the megillah and then pass it around his community for others to use. Our reader’s father also continued this tradition and now we use it for our community.
Two of our readers publicize our readings through a Facebook page and by sending out Evites. Many of our attendees have come to our readings for each year that we have read.
On a personal note, I am in awe of the feeling of community among the readers. We work really hard in learning and relearning our chapters (and are blessed to have one reader, Diana Levy, who is an expert reader and helps train all of us!!) and we are supportive and caring of each other. In addition, I am grateful that so many women of our community are truly appreciative of our efforts and tell us that they cannot imagine a Purim without our readings. And finally, I am especially proud that my two daughters (two of our original readers!) have continued to read- my daughter Ilana read at Stern College while a student there and my daughter Liora has read at the Columbia-Barnard reading for the past two years.