Purim – hiding in the museum
by Judith Vandervelde, Senior Educator
Purim, like many Jewish festivals is based on a story. During Purim, Jewish people read the Book of Esther, which tells the story of Esther’s role in saving
the Jewish people from annihilation at the hands of the Ancient King Ahasuerus
and his adviser Haman.
Jewish people celebrate the joyful story of Purim with elements similar to carnivals. It is traditional to dress up in costume, perform plays, listen to music, and dance.
Dressing up in costume is symbollic of the fact that even though God’s name is not mentioned once in the Purim story, God is present. So people dress up to hide themselves, as God is hidden.
Interestingly, whilst dressing up is the emphasis in many communities, it is not one of the mitzvot (obligations) which are namely to listen to public readings of the Megilah: give to charity, hand out gifts and food parcels to friends and have a meal.
Purim is a permanent feature in the galleries at the Jewish
Museum, with beautiful examples of the Book of Esther on display. Unlike the
Torah these are usually decorated. Some in the collection are elaborately
colourful; others have intricate cut outs and often reflect the time and place
in which they were produced.
To mark Purim we have set our two learning work experience students,
Nevanna and Laura, a task: explore the galleries and, in the spirit of Purim, cover
the faces of some of the things they find in the galleries with home-made
Here’s what they came up with: