A year in Dnepropetrovsk

An American volunteer in Ukraine

Purim

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Purim is pretty much the same in Ukraine as in America, with one important distinction: whereas in America Hanukkah is the major Jewish fun holiday, here that award is split between Hanukkah and Purim. In other words, Purim is a very big deal. Just like they did for Hanukkah, each Jewish organization has their own big celebration. The staff of the JCC, for example, put on a large Purimspiel play the Sunday after the holiday, replete with Hamentashen and other treats, which the entire community was invited to. At Sunday School we made a silent Purimspiel film, which was shown at the school’s Purim celebration and at the JCC play (more about the film itself in the next post).

Of course, the religious community had their own celebration. Erev and yom Purim there was a reading of the Megillah. Interestingly, they only read half the scroll at a given sitting– the rationalization being that we are religiously required to attend both readings anyway. I only went to the erev Purim service, however. It was quite an event! The children and clergy were all decked out in costumes (keep in mind, there is no Halloween in the FSU), and there was a pretty decent showing. There was only one reader, however, who read awfully quickly. I think we booed Haman a total of four times, the only times his pauses for breath coincided with the recitation of Haman’s name. After the service, three large tables were brought to the center of the main floor and were set up with buterbrody (half sandwiches) with herring and onions, some vegetables, and of course drinks! Despite the enormous amount of beer, wine, and vodka that had been set, I only got a couple shots worth by the time I made it down from the balcony and met up with my friends in the courtyard. Still, it was the most fun post-Purim party I had ever been to at the synagogue!

As for me personally, I baked about 100 hamentashen as mishloach manot for a few friends and my colleagues in the office. They were a big hit, and I highly recommend the following recipe, which I followed fairly faithfully. This will give you a slightly crunchier cookie. To make the dough softer, add baking soda and sour cream (a Russian baking tip!).

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