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Purim 5776: Incorporating Social Justice into Your Celebrations

Purim 5776: Incorporating Social Justice into Your Celebrations

Without a doubt, Purim is one of my favorite Jewish holidays. From its dramatic, moving story about a woman seemingly confined by gendered expectations becomes an advocate and saves the Jewish people from destruction, to the many mitzvot associated with this celebration, there is much so much richness to this story, especially from a social justice perspective. If you are interested in including a social justice element to Purim this year, there are many ways to do so!

  1. A major focus of the Reform Movement’s Racial Justice campaign has been criminal justice reform, a topic with significant relevance to the Purim story, as it deals specifically regimes of crime and punishment, whether legitimate or illegitimate. Purim also forces us to confront the implications of arbitrary and excessive punishment. Learn more about these connections, and actions you can take to ensure our criminal justice system reflects our values.
  2. One of the mitzvot of Purim is matanot levyonim, or gifts to the poor. Just as our festivities on Purim turn societal hierarchy on its head, we are similarly instructed to help ease the disparity between the haves and the have nots in our country. Learn more about the connections between Purim and economic justice, and check out our economic justice Purim program bank to incorporate learning about these issues in your holiday celebrations.
  3. It is hard think of Purim and not reflect on how prejudice put at risk the lives of an entire people. It is by retelling the Purim story, and acknowledging its place in our history that we rededicated ourselves to fight against prejudice, persecution and genocide. There are unique lessons from Purim on how we can think about anti-Semitism in the world today, as well as broader issues of international religious freedom. If you want to learn more about opportunities for programming and deeper study on Purim and ending genocide, you can check out our program bank here.
  4. At the center of the Purim story is the advocacy of Esther, and how she overcame personal hesitation and structural obstacles to fight for the Jewish people. Underscoring her story, and also that of Vashti, are issues of gender equality and the treatment of women. Learn about how you can honor the legacies of Esther and Vashti by talking action on the International Violence Against Women Act, and peruse additional resources to incorporate a discussion about gender equality into your Purim observance.
  5. If you’re looking for readings or text studies to enhance your learning on Purim, on the RAC’s Purim resource page (rac.org/Purim), there are many options to choose from. These resources complement many of the resources mentioned above, or could be used as standalone studies.

As we prepare to celebrate Purim this week, there are so many things to look forward to: hamantaschen, megillah reading, a Purim spiel or carnival, costumes, revelry and more. In our revelry, we can also take some time to reflect on the social justice topics that relate closely to our Purim celebrations, whether you focus on criminal justice, women’s rights, economic justice or fighting prejudice, or another important issue in the world today, may your Purim be joyous and meaningful.


Sarah Greenberg is the Assistant Legislative Director at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, where she was an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant in 2013-2014. Sarah graduated in 2013 from Cornell University, and is originally from New York City.

Sarah Greenberg