Happy Fun Purim! A Real Favorite

Hamantaschen (By Photo by David Stuck)

Hamantaschen (By Photo by David Stuck)

A group of Jewish women were recently asked what their favorite holiday was.  The majority answered, “Purim!”  Why?  Because it is fun, can be participated in by all ages and, oh those delicious hamantaschen. All of the princess gear available make the holiday a standout for girls with beautiful costumes to become Queen Esther. And super-hero costumes are definitely boy favorites.

For me, stuffed cabbage and hamantaschen are the staples of Purim.  I always look for easy-to-cook, shortcut recipes of the traditional dishes but with the same flavors intact. Conveniences such as frozen puff pastry and advance no-cook cabbage — detailed in Tips — leave time for more groggin’ and Purim play.

Thank you to the Joy of Kosher Internet site for pointing out that Queen Esther was a vegetarian, eating only plant foods. Check out the site for a myriad of hamantaschen recipes, even a vegan one!

Easy Internet Hamantaschen (Dairy/Pareve)

Unstuffed Cabbage (Pracas) (Meat)

Easy Sweet & Sour Stuffed Cabbage (Meat)

Puff Pastry Hamantaschen


• Don’t bother cooking cabbage in advance. Simply freeze the whole head of cabbage overnight in a plastic bag.  Defrost it at room temp or in a microwave, core and use the leaves to easily wrap meat. No fuss or mess.

• Have a box of frozen puff pastry sheets on hand.  Prepare according to the accompanying recipe, sweet or savory.

• Get some good store-bought bakery chocolate hamantaschen and drizzle with your own from-scratch easy chocolate or vanilla frosting. It is then considered “homemade.”


Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.

HoCo to Host Annual Purim Palooza

Purim Palooza is known as the one event that brings the Howard County Jewish community together, including Federation president Richard Schreibstein and executive director Michelle Ostroff. (Provided)

Purim Palooza is known as the one event that brings the Howard County Jewish community together, including Federation president Richard Schreibstein and executive director Michelle Ostroff. (Provided)

Few things bring Howard County’s Jewish community together like Purim Palooza and the Kids Activity Expo, and the 24th annual holiday event is expected to attract 1,500 people.

“I think that Purim Palooza [draws] so many families because it’s really the one time of the year that the whole county [can get together] regardless of religious affiliation, observance or synagogue membership,” said Randi Leshin, co-chair of the event and a Columbia native. The event, which takes place at Reservoir High School on March 20, is organized by the Jewish Federation of Howard County and sponsored by Camps Airy and Louise, DJ Doug, Window Nation and Sir Speedy as well as other synagogues, businesses, organizations and families.

Exhibitors and volunteers will provide food and activities such as photo novelties, airbrush hats and shirts, games, arts and crafts, face painting and — it wouldn’t be Purim without them — hamantaschen.

“I’ve watched Purim Palooza grow from a small community outreach program to this epic event,” said Doug Sandler, also known as DJ Doug, who has attended the event for more than 15 years.

Sandler, who recently moved to Rockville but was a longtime Howard County resident, became involved with the Federation initially as a way to network — he emcees for bar and bat mitzvah receptions — but said as he volunteered more, he began feeling like “a family member of the Federation.”

Being a DJ, his job requires him to stay up to date on popular trends among his audience; he brings that experience to the table when helping plan Purim Palooza.

“I’m a 51-year-old big kid,” said Sandler. “When we have seven or eight people around the table, my experience in the kid market has enabled me to make some proper decisions about entertainment, games and the flow of the event.”

Sandler added that although his kids are older, they have stayed involved in the event by helping him set up and run different booths. He joked that while he doesn’t profess to be a “hip or cool guy” himself, he knows what kids see as “hip and cool.”

Marty Rochlin, director of Camp Airy, sees the event as being similar to Jewish summer camp.

“We think what makes the Purim Palooza event appealing is that it’s a chance to do something Jewish with friends and family,” said Rochlin. “If [kids] aren’t involved in day school, they don’t have access [to that] on a regular basis. Going to an event like Purim Palooza lets you dive in and play for the day. That’s what camp is all about as well.”

Sara Magden, co-chair of the event alongside Leshin, stays involved with Purim Palooza and the Federation as a way of “setting the example for my daughter and husband.”

“Giving back to the community is important to me, and it has always been a strong value growing up,” said Magden.

While the Howard County Jewish community can sometimes be dwarfed by the neighboring community in Baltimore, Rochlin said he sees this event as a time for it to shine.

“I think for a lot of people, there is a misnomer that the Jewish community is centered around Pikesville or Baltimore County,” said Rochlin. “When there’s an event like this in Howard County, it sheds a real positive light that there are thriving Jewish communities in other places.”


Purim Palooza and Kids Activity Expo

Reservoir High School
11550 Scaggsville Road, Fulton

March 20, 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

$7 per person; $20 per family (includes 10 tickets; family package with extras, $72

Contact Meghann Schwartz for more information, 410-730-4976, ext. 106


Sober Purim

022715_alcoholWhile many people can’t wait to crack open the booze each Purim, some in Baltimore’s Jewish community find themselves in a difficult situation, struggling to balance a recovery from addiction with a religious tradition.

“I think Purim is, in some ways, an exception to prove a rule, which is that, by and large, our approach toJudaism is one of moderation,” said Beth Am Synagogue’s Rabbi Daniel Cotzin Burg. “Purim is like that one day a year that, yeah, you’re encouraged to let your hair down a little bit. So I think drinking a little more than usual is called for on Purim.”

Among the traditions associated with Purim, such as reading the megillah, giving to the poor and exchanging gifts of food with friends, is to enjoy a festive meal. Religious tradition has ascribed imbibing more than usual to the feast, with the Talmud saying that a person is required to “spice himself” on Purim to such an extent that he cannot tell the difference between Mordechai’s blessings and Haman’s curses.

But for those struggling to recover from addiction, health and well-being must trump tradition and even religious commandment, said Burg.

“For someone who is a recovering alcoholic, the tradition actually would be pretty clear that not only is that person discouraged to drink, but that person is forbidden to drink,” said Burg. “There is an understanding that this is an illness and that if one who is a recovering alcoholic has even one drink, we know that that would be putting that person at risk, and health and life trump really any other considerations in Jewish tradition.”

Though many recovering alcoholics might wish ideally to avoid all tempting situations, sometimes religious obligation and the desire to participate in everyday observance means those in recovery find themselves having to test their sobriety at a Purim party.

While every day in recovery is a challenge, holidays centered on letting loose and celebrating can be especially difficult, said Heather Press, a recovering addict and an administrator at Right Turn-IMPACT, a local recovery house.

“In the past, that’s all we know of that holiday,” she said of consuming alcohol with traditional religious celebrations.

As part of her recovery, Press skipped celebrations during most of her first year of sobriety. But when she decided she wanted to return to attending holiday gatherings, she made sure she first set up a network of support.

If a person finds himself or herself in a situation where there is a lot of pressure to drink, Press suggests keeping a non-alcoholic drink on hand at all times, “so people aren’t tempted to offer you an alcoholic beverage.”

She also suggests attending a recovery meeting soon before and soon after the event and to know where the nearest meeting is. A sober companion can also provide added strength when temptation is all around. Press said all of these tools helped her re-enter holidays when she felt comfortable enough to try.

Most importantly, Press said, recovering addicts have to learn to trust their gut instinct and be ready to leave early if they feel being present could jeopardize their recovery.

“If you’re uncomfortable and you’re starting to have thoughts and cravings, get out of there,” she said. “Your life and your recovery is more important at that point.”


Purim Change of Pace Choose chocolate as a flavored dough

Triple chocolate hamantaschen would make a wonderful treat in coffee-themed Purim baskets.

Triple chocolate hamantaschen would make a wonderful treat in coffee-themed Purim baskets.

Hamantaschen talk is always about the filling: prune, poppy, apricot and strawberry, just to name a few favorites. I love being creative with the fillings, but this year I wanted to change up things with a flavored dough rather than just a fun filling. And what better ingredient to include than chocolate.

Once you have made your chocolate dough, you can still be creative with the fillings, although I recommend two combinations: triple chocolate, which is filled with nutella and drizzled with white chocolate, and chocolate mocha. You could also try filling the chocolate dough with raspberry jam, peanut butter or even halvah.

The key to making and working with this dough successfully is making it several hours in advance — even a day or two — so that it is properly chilled. It will feel sticky, so add flour as you roll it out to make sure it holds its shape.

Most hamantaschen bakers know that one of the keys to making a cookie that doesn’t fall apart during the baking is to pinch the three points very carefully. Another tip is to lay out all the folded and filled cookies on a baking sheet and then pop them into the freezer for five to 10 minutes before baking. Chilled cookie dough simply bakes better.

If you enjoy the custom of handing out mishloach manot, or Purim baskets, in your community, these chocolate hamantaschen would go great with a coffee-themed package: include a small bag of high-quality coffee, a little bag of chocolate-covered espresso beans and the hamantaschen inside a big mug.

Triple chocolate hamantaschen


Purim Roundup! A selection of festive events around town

Purim begins at sundown on Wednesday, March 5. The JT has put together a selection of events and megillah readings in the area. From wine-and-cheese receptions to tot Purim events, there are plenty of ways to celebrate the holiday. All events are open to the public.



Arugas Habosem
• March 4 — Megillah reading at 6:45 p.m.
• March 5 — Shacharit in small shul (6615 Park Heighs Ave.) at 6:20 a.m. and megillah reading at 7 a.m.; shacharit in big shul (3509 Clarks Lane) at 8 a.m., megillah reading at 8:50 a.m.; mincha in small shul at 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.; simchas Purim 8:15 p.m., followed by maariv in small shul.

Baltimore Hebrew Congregation
• March 8 — “Esther and the Chocolate Factory” Purim shpiel, 10:45 a.m.; Purim Carnival, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; purchase tickets at the door.

Beth Am Synagogue
• March 4 — BYO dairy/fish dinner, maariv, 6:45 p.m., in sanctuary; megillah reading and children’s costume parade, 7 p.m. Purim shpiel to follow.
• March 8 — Morning minyan, 9 a.m.; family megillah reading, 10 a.m.; Purim carnival,  10:30 a.m.

Beth El Congregation
• March 1 — Purim carnival, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., $7 in advance, $10 at the door.
• March 4 — Megillah reading, 7 p.m., followed by Purim party.

Beth Israel Congregation
• March 1 — Purim carnival, 11a.m. to 1 p.m.; buy a wristband for unlimited play, $10 per preschool-aged child, $15 plus two free tickets per child for school-aged children.
• March 4 — Megillah reading, 6 p.m.; family megillah reading, 7 p.m. with storyteller and actress Katherine Lyons.

Beth Tfiloh Congregation
• March 4 — Purim un-Plugged, traditional megillah readings, 6:55 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. Epstein chapel; multimedia megillah reading, 7 p.m., Dahan sanctuary, followed by Shushan Street Carnival.
• March 5 — Purim un-Plugged, shacharit and megillah reading, 7 a.m., Dahan sanctuary; women’s/girl’s tefilah and megillah reading, 8 a.m., Epstein chapel; additional megillah reading, 4:30 p.m., Epstein chapel; Purim Suedah, 5:15 p.m., auditorium featuring dueling pianos from “Howl at the Moon,” $12 for adults; $7 for children ages 3 to 15; free for children 2 and under. Reservations required; register at bethtfiloh.com/register.

B’nai Israel — The Downtown Synagogue
• March 4 — Magic show, face painting and balloons, 6 p.m.; megillah reading, 7 p.m. Special guest appearances by the characters from “Frozen.” ASL interpreters will be available throughout the event. BIYA Purim Celebration follows the megillah reading.  Co-sponsored by Jewish Advocates for Deaf Education.

Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion Congregation
• March 4 — Megillah readings, 6:44 p.m., 8 p.m., 10 p.m.
• March 5 — Megillah readings, 7:10 a.m., 8:40 a.m., 10 a.m.

Bolton Street Synagogue
• March 8 — Purim carnival, 11 a.m.

Chabad of Owings Mills
• March 4 — Purim party, 6:30 p.m.
• March 5 — “Purim under the Sea” dinner; special performance by mentalist Alain Nu, 5 p.m., RSVP
at 410-356-5156.

Charm City Tribe
• March 5 — Wild Purim Rumpus, 8 p.m. A night of masquerade, mitzvah and mischief with Red
Ball Theatre (puppetry), music by Schmuck and Tribe Friends Muchos (aka Trace Friends Muchos), food specials and more. Hosted by the Goddess Perlman of “Nice Jewish Girls Gone Bad.” Presented with
Repair the World: Baltimore and JQ Baltimore.

Chizuk Amuno Congregation
• March 4 — Purim Circus under the Big Top, megillah reading, 6:15 p.m., family megillah reading, 7 p.m. Join ringmaster Mordecai and Esther the High Wire aerialist, and enjoy cotton candy-flavored hamantashen. Come dressed as your favorite Purim character or circus performer. Services followed by Purim parties for all ages.

Congregation Beit Tikvah
• March 4 — Megillah reading and Purim Celebration, 6:30 p.m.
• March 8 — Kesher School’s Purim fundraiser, 10 a.m.

Etz Chaim Center
• March 4 — Maariv, 6:40 p.m., megillah reading, 7 p.m., followed by Purim party, $10 for party, register online.

Har Sinai Congregation
• March 8 — M&M: Megillah & More, 11:30 a.m.; Purim carnival, noon. Participants may bring boxes of unopened M&Ms or macaroni to use as noisemakers during the megillah reading. Participants may bring a bag of food for a food drive to receive five free game tickets. For more information, contact the synagogue office at 410-654-9393.

Kol HaLev Synagogue
• March 4 — Megillah reading and “Fiddler on the Roof  Purim shpiel,” 6 p.m.

Moishe House
• March 7 — Purim Shabbat dinner, 7:30 p.m.

Ner Tamid
• March 1 — 2nd annual community wide pre-Purim carnival, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., $8 per person, $30 per family. Portions of the proceeds will go to the Jewish Caring Network in Baltimore.
• March 4 — Mincha/maariv, 5:35 p.m.; megillah reading, 6:45 p.m.
• March 5 — Shacharit, 7:30 a.m.; megillah reading, 8 a.m.

Ohel Moshe
• March 6 — Megillah readings, 9:15 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

Shomrei Emunah Congregation
• March 1 — Purim carnival, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the social hall, $5 per child.
• March 5 — Youth Motivation for Education and the Shomrei Emunah Youth Department children’s megillah reading, 11 a.m., for children 6 and under in the social hall (siblings and parents welcome).

Temple Emanuel
• March 1 — Purim carnival with Beth Israel, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• March 4 — Purim shpiel and megillah reading, 5:30 p.m to 6:30 p.m.

Temple Oheb Shalom
• Feb. 28 — Purim shpiel and dinner, complimentary wine-and-cheese reception, 6:30 p.m.; Purim shpiel “The Megillah According to The Beatles,” 7 p.m.; dinner and dancing, 7:30 p.m. RSVP online.
• March 4 — Wine-and-cheese reception, 5:45 p.m., followed by megillah reading at 6:15 p.m.

The Macks Center for Jewish Education
• March 1 — Sing and Bake with Odessa. Join friends in Baltimore in baking American and Ukrainian hamantaschen as we video chat with friends in Odessa, 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., second-floor
community room; RSVP at cjebaltimore.org/bake.

Tiferes Yisroel
• March 4 — Maariv, 6:40 p.m.; megillah readings, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.; Purim shpiel, 8:15 p.m.
• March 5 — Shacahrit, 8 a.m.; megillah readings, 8:45 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.; mincha 2:30 p.m.

Winands Road Synagogue
• March 4 — Megillah reading, 7 p.m.

Harford CountyChabad of Harford County
• March 4 — Purimtini, 7 p.m., $15 per person.
• March 5 — Purim at the Stadium, 5 p.m., McFaul Activities Center, $10 per person. RSVP to both at harfordchabad.org/purim.

Temple Adas Shalom,The Harford Jewish Center
• March 6 — Pasta and Purim, 6:15 p.m., $5 per person, RSVP by March 2 to wayrg@Zoominternet.net.
• March 8 — Megillah reading, 9 a.m., followed by Temple Choir Purim Shpiel and Purim Carnival.



Beth Shalom Congregation
• March 4 — The World of Oz Purim Service and Silly Symphony, 7 p.m.; Tot Purim program at 6:30 p.m., prior to megillah reading.

Calah Congregation
• March 8 — Hosting bone marrow screening at Purim Palooza (see Jewish Federation of Howard County).

Chabad of Clarksville
• March 4 — Italian Flavored Purim Festa, megillah reading 6:30 p.m., Dinner 7 p.m. RSVP at info@ChabadClarksville.org.

Columbia Jewish Congregation
• March 4 — Megillah reading for tots, 6 p.m., megillah reading and shpiel, 7 p.m.

Jewish Federation of Howard County
• March 8 — Purim Palooza at Reservoir High School, 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., $5 per person, $15 per family (includes 10 tickets).

Temple Isaiah
• Feb. 28 — Adult martini megillah, 7 p.m.
• March 6 — Purim dinner, 6 p.m. Bring your own dinner (dairy or pareve); family service, 7 p.m. RSVP at 301-498-0200.




Fun Purim Crafts For Kids

Make a Purim Grooger

You will need:

  • Popping corn
  • pencil
  • empty juice can (with only 2 holes at the top that were used for pouring
  • cardboard
  • scissors
  • colored felt
  • household cement
  • glue

Put a handful of popping corn into the can through the 2 holes. Trace the base of the can onto the cardboard. Cut the cardboard and trim the circle so it fits snugly onto the side of the can with the holes.
[Read more…]

Purim Primer: Some quick facts about the Festival of Lots

Purim is a minor festival telling the story of the saving of the Jews from possible annihilation in the Persian Empire, 473 B.C.E. The Persian King Ahasuerus, or Xerxes, has a prime minister named Haman. Haman is angry because one particular Jew named Mordechai refuses to bow down before him, giving him the respect of royalty.

Haman’s response to this is to order the killing of all the Jews. Queen Esther, Mordechai’s younger cousin, asks Ahasuerus to reverse Haman’s order. He complies, and instead has Haman and his 10 sons hanged. [Read more…]

Self-Invented Character Groggers

(Ages 3 to 10)

Materials Needed

  • Empty (clean and dry) plastic milk or juice container with handle (quart or half-gallon), save the lid too!
  • White glue, scissors
  • Beans, marbles, tic-tacs, candies (anything that makes lots of noise when shaken in an empty container)
  • Multi-colored felt pieces, construction paper, tissue paper, wallpaper samples, etc.

[Read more…]

Designer Mishloach Manot

(Ages 12-16 years)

Materials Needed:

  • Colorful pasteboard
  • Assorted wrapping paper
  • Ribbon
  • Self-adhesive stickers
  • Clear tape
  • Scissors
  • Tissue paper for inner wrap
  • Actual gifts for inside (at least two different foods)

[Read more…]

More Information

Purim: Persian word for lots or lottery.

Megillah Esther: Means scroll of Esther, telling the story of Purim in great detail. It is read on Purim night and again the following morning.

Purim dates: Ta’anit (fast) of Esther on 13 Adar. That evening the story of Purim is read from the Megillah. It is then read again on the morning of the 14th of Adar. Many families have festive Purim meals the afternoon of the 14th of Adar. The 15th of Adar, which is today, is also known as Shushan Purim. Shushan was the capital of Persia, the place where the Purim story takes place. The people who lived in this walled city and other walled cities traditionally celebrate Purim on this day.
[Read more…]