For 3,000 Russian Jews in City, Purim Is Little Early This Year
- New York Times
March 20 1978
By Gregory Jaynes
Mothers clutched babies to their hostess and danced; fathers toasted old friends, old times and the future, and a five-piece combo played joyous tunes; yesterday as 3,000 Russian Jews, many of them newly arrived, celebrated the festival of Purim, many for the first tuna.
On a blue-sky morning with a brilliant sun, they were borne on chattered buses to the Star, Armory on 14th Street between Seventh Avenue and Avenue of the Americas. There, on a second-floor basketball court long tables were set up and laden with chickens, sour pickles, baked white breads; apples and oranges and hundreds of quarts of sweet sodas.
Book of Esther Tells Tale
The event, which bad attracted 1,500 people each In 1976 and 1977, was sponsored by the Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe (F.R.E.E.), a volunteer organization with headquarters in Brooklyn. It was held yesterday, a spokesman said, "as a matter of convenience." The holiday actually begins at sundown Wednesday and ends at sundown Thursday.
The festival of Purim, symbolizing religious freedom, bag its derivation in the Biblical story of Queen Esther, who saved the Jews from Haman, the Persian tyrant. The word "purim" means "lots," which was the method Haman used to select the day on which the Jew, would be destroyed.
According to the Back of Esther, the queen the wife of King Ahasuerus, learned of the plot and thwarted it.
"For many of these people it is the first time they have known of Purim,"' a director, in Philadelphia, with the Lubavitch Movement, the worldwide organization of Hasidic Jews. "We want to put them back In touch with their roots, the cots from which they have been estranged for so many years."
Thus, said the rabbi, the program was conducted in Russian, ad the celebrants were given literature that told the story of Purim in Russian.
And to one side of the room, scores of old men took their after-meal cigarettes in European fashion, held between thumb and forefinger, glowing sales pointed at the roof. Their vidka was taken in native style-straight do.
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