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March 8, 2014

Purim celebration to get rowdy at Congregation Beth Shalom in Modesto

Unlike the upcoming holy days of the Passover and Yom Kippur, the Jewish observance of Purim includes wearing colorful costumes and drowning out the rabbi reading the story of Esther whenever the wicked adviser Haman is mentioned.

Most faith-based services are solemn events. There may be some joyful singing or even the occasional humorous skit to match the subject of the lesson, but rarely do things get as rowdy as they do in the Jewish holiday of Purim.

Beginning Saturday evening and concluding Sunday, the event commemorates the biblical book of Esther, which tells of a wicked royal adviser named Haman who tried to wipe out all Jews in the kingdom of Persian King Xerxes. They were saved by the queen, a Jew herself, whose uncle, Mordechai, had saved the king from an earlier assassination attempt. The tables get turned as Mordechai becomes an honored royal adviser and the jealous Haman gets hung on the very gallows he had constructed for Mordechai.

During the services at Congregation Beth Shalom in Modesto, the story of Esther is read. Attendees often wear costumes and use noisemakers and “boos” to drown out the name of Haman each time it is read. “A general lack of decorum and rowdy behavior is traditionally associated with Purim as it is a unique holiday to ‘turn things upside down,’ ” a news release said.

There are also Purim pastries, called hamantaschen, that are a feature of the holiday, along with a party after the adults-only Saturday evening service; the party includes karaoke, music and other refreshments. A Sunday family service begins with a “Star Wars”-style telling of the story, followed by a carnival and concluding with a hot dog lunch.

Other features of the holiday include exchanging food gifts with friends, giving support to those in need and having a festive feast.

All services are open to the public.

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