by Erica Solomon.
The holiday of Purim is typically anticipated with much fanfare and enthusiasm. Costumes are chosen, mishloach manot are planned, seudahs are organized and the excitement builds as the date approaches. However all of that can deflate like an old carnival balloon if the first event, the megillah reading is disorganized and chaotic.
Chabad of the Valley recognized this and put together one of the most well run, yet entertaining Purim nights. The headquarters in Tarzana hosted over 400 people on Saturday night. The social hall and sanctuary were divided into a tame grown-ups reading and a more festive children’s program in the other. The children’s room was run by Rabbi Mayer Greene and a fleet of yeshiva students. The room was set up like an amphitheater with ample seating; no person was to sit on the ground. Each child was greeted with a bag of snacks. Groggers were given out and a slide show highlighting the events of each chapter of the megillah was displayed on the wall during the rapid reading of the Book of Esther. Raffle tickets galore were handed out to children who sat quietly and plenty of time was allotted to the noisemaking at the name of Haman. After the megillah was read, Pini Cohen, the local Israeli singer who knows how to attract and work a crowd, entertained the dancing and celebrating masses along with Rabbi Mordy Einbinder.
Simultaneously in Culver City, Chabad arranged for the megillah to be read at a party for the organization, Larger than Life. Larger than Life – LA has the primary goal of improving the life of children with cancer. Its focus is to support recovery and healthy development. The organization makes it possible for children with cancer to enjoy happy, normal childhood experiences that other children their age often take for granted. There were over 700 people attending the party.
The festivities continued the next day. There were over 20 different megillah reading locations. More than ten volunteers were sent out in force to read at hospitals, board and care centers, house visits and even a hard working accountant who was open on Sunday! At the Sunday morning megillah reading, Councilman Bob Blumenfeld joined the Ryzman Fmaily Hebrew School. According to Rabbi Yanky Kahn, “Chabad of the Valley’s goal was to reach every Jewish person in the community. “ Purim culminated with Chabad of Encino and Tarzana each hosting a major Purim seudah. Encino featured “Purim in the Jungle”. The center was transformed into a jungle with trees brought in, jungle themed lighting, and inflatable animals. The children were encouraged to trade pre-packaged mishloach manos, and were entertained with a reptile show and caricature artist. A bar-b-que feast was enjoyed by nearly 200 people. Just a few miles away Chabad of Tarzana hosted their own seudah which featured comedian Marvin Silberman, a Jay Leno joke writer. It was a joyous and happy Purim for everyone involved.