“When I asked a rabbi, ‘Why do I feel this way?’ he replied, ‘The sleeping souls of your ancestors are calling out to you.’ ”
Purim in 2010 will start on Sunday, the 28th of February and will
continue for 2 days until Monday, the 1st of March.
Note that in the Jewish calendar, a holiday begins on the sunset of the
previous day, so observing Jews will celebrate Purim on the sunset of
Saturday, the 27th of February.
The events commemorated by Purim took place in the ancient
Persian Empire, in the fifth century BCE, under the reign
of King Achashverosh. Mordechai, a Jew, refused to bow down
and prostrate himself before Haman, the vizier to the King.
Haman immediately set out "to destroy all the Jews
that were throughout
the whole kingdom of Achashverosh" (Esther 3,6). In order to
effect his vicious racist plan, Haman decided to enlist the aid
of the unsuspecting King
Achashverosh. Since Haman was a very superstitious person,
he had lots cast to determine on which day he
should carry out his design. The word for lots is "Purim",
and from it we get the name for the holiday. The chosen
date was the thirteenth of Adar.
The king, who trusted Haman, agreed to his plan
to murder the Jews. For Haman had told him that
the Jews were "scattered abroad in all the provinces,"
and that "their laws are different from those of every people" (Esther 3,8).
Letters, written by Haman and signed by the king,
were sent out throughout all the provinces, commanding
all persons "to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish
all the Jews" (Esther 3,13). The Jews would
have been massacred, had it not been for Esther,
Mordechai's cousin, who had been chosen queen a few years earlier.
Queen Esther was able to intercede and save
the Jewish community from genocide.
Haman was hanged on the gallows which he
himself had prepared for Mordechai.
The Jews of Persia were spared and
judgments were executed on their enemies.
Before 1939, Poland was home to more than three million Jews, more than 90 percent of whom were killed by the Nazis. Most who survived emigrated. Of the fewer than 50,000 who remained in Poland, many abandoned or hid their Judaism during decades of Communist oppression in which political pogroms against Jews persisted.
Today, though, Michael Schudrich, the chief rabbi of Poland, said he considered Poland the most pro-Israel country in the European Union. He said the attitude of Pope John Paul II, a Pole, who called Jews “our elder brothers,” had finally entered the public consciousness.
Ten years after the revelation that 1,600 Jews of the town of Jedwabne were burned alive by their Polish neighbors in July 1941, he said the national myth that all Poles were victims of World War II had finally been shattered.
“Before 1989 there was a feeling that it was not safe to say, ‘I am a Jew,’ ” Rabbi Schudrich said. “But two decades later, there is a growing feeling that Jews are a missing limb in Poland. The level of anti-Semitism remains unacceptable, but the image of the murderous Pole seared in the consciousness of many Jews after the war doesn’t correspond to the Poland of 2010.”
The small Jewish revival has been under way for several years around eastern Europe. Hundreds of Poles, a majority of them raised as Catholics, are either converting to Judaism or discovering Jewish roots submerged for decades in the aftermath of World War II.
In the past five years, Warsaw’s Jewish community had grown to 600 families from 250. The cafes and bars of the old Jewish quarter in Krakow brim with young Jewish converts listening to Israeli hip hop music.