Embracing the Purim Spirit

March 20, 2014
BY Joshua Runyan

runyan_josh_otYou certainly don’t need to be reminded, but there’s nothing like spending Purim in Baltimore. As if last week’s pre-holiday carnivals weren’t enough, entire streets became parking lots on Sunday, bumper-to-bumper traffic competing with costumed revelers in the race to deliver precious shlach manot to neighbors and friends.

The scene was one of tremendous unity, of Jewish joy and celebration. It served as reminder of what can be accomplished when the Jewish people focus within and celebrate their shared identity. That was the spirit that saved the Jews in Persia thousands of years ago and is the spirit behind many of the community’s initiatives at home and abroad.

That spirit can be seen in the flow of money and support to Jewish residents of Odessa and other cities throughout Ukraine, a communal effort you’ll read about in the pages of this week’s JT. By committing hard-earned dollars, donors are collectively acknowledging a common bond between Jewish Baltimore and those caught in the crossfire between nationalist Ukrainians on the one hand and the hegemonic desires of an expanding Russia on the other.

People around the world, whether in Ukraine or in Israel and beyond, need help.

But as this week’s cover story demonstrates, people also need help right here in Baltimore. Spousal caregivers can benefit from several programs, including support groups and counseling organizations, but as Simone Ellin discovered in her reporting, many of those who have found themselves caring for a chronically ill spouse feel isolated and alone.

That state of affairs might be caused by the fact that this growing phenomenon — one rabbi in Cherry Hill notes that long-term care issues will only multiply as baby boomers age and medical advances lengthen lifespans — has traditionally taken a back seat to other pressing concerns, be they addressing the needs of children with special needs and their families or helping families taking care of aging parents and grandparents, issues that the JT has covered recently.

It could also be that spousal caregivers occupy a unique environment, a world of round-the-clock needs, mourning the loss of what could have been and coping with the reality of what is. In the words of a 56-year-old spouse who preferred to remain anonymous: “You have to accept that the person you married is here, but not here.”

It comes as no surprise then that such people are tremendously lonely.

And so it falls on the surrounding community to reach out. Many are already doing a tremendous job, as one reader pointed out recently: Caring residents regularly flock to the Levindale complex off of Northern Parkway to bring patients and their family members a sense of community. The program, though, could always use more volunteers.

We need more of such programs. We need more helping hands, more shoulders to cry on and more gestures of support.

In short, we as a community need to keep that Purim spirit of unity going, on through Passover and beyond, so that everyone knows he is not alone.

jrunyan@jewishtimes.com

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