Thousands Celebrate Purim with Yachad
With Israel slowly emerging from the latest Covid-19 lockdown, Ohr Torah Stone’s ‘Yachad’ Program for Jewish Identity once again partnered with the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization to coordinate Purim megilla readings in hundreds of communities across Israel. Now in its eleventh year, the outdoor program called “Megilla BaKehilla” (literally, “megilla reading within the community”) offered “Covid-safe” Purim celebrations enabling thousands of families to enjoy the holiday.
Purim is a holiday that all Israeli Jews look forward to – it’s fun and festive for adults and children alike. This year, Purim had a special significance, as it marked one year since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. After a year of on-again, off-again lockdowns, concerns about health and social distancing, Israelis were anxious to celebrate.
Volunteers Mobilized Across the Country
Thanks to the Blumenthal family’s generous donation to Ohr Torah Stone and the Kronitz family’s support of Tzohar – and thanks to teams of volunteers from Eilat in Israel’s south to Katzrin in the north – 400 outdoor megilla readings were held in over 200 communities. Participants received free megillot and mishloach manot packages and enjoyed festive readings that included guided explanations of the holiday’s themes. Director of Ohr Torah Stone’s Yachad program, Rabbi Shay Nave, commented, “Our goal, as always, was to make sure that the holiday was relevant for those who might not typically come to services but nonetheless want to connect to our national traditions and heritage. Our ancient traditions deserve to be embraced and enjoyed by all.”
“Megilla BaKehilla enabled thousands of Israelis all over the country to hear the megilla in an accessible and enjoyable setting while protecting their health and the health of others,” said Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander, President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone. “Particularly in these difficult times, it was all the more important to remember the unifying message of Purim and do our utmost to ensure our common traditions bring us together.”
Where Tradition Meets Modernity
“In a year in which we could not have large gatherings and many people are isolated at home, we decided to once again broadcast a live, online, kosher megilla reading on our Facebook page – just as we did one year ago at the very start of Covid,” Naveh related.
This year’s online reading, which was also broadcast on OTS’s Youtube channel, was MC’d (in Hebrew) by Israeli entertainer Assaf Ashtar and featured a performance by the uplifting Yonina duo – whose male half, Yoni Tokayer, also served as megilla reader.
“The online megilla reading was so well done, with excellent performers and an entertaining program that enabled everyone to connect to Purim, from wherever we are located geographically and religiously,” wrote Liron from Pardes Channa. “Thank you for another truly wonderful and inclusive Yachad initiative!”