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Jewish Purim celebration spans world, includes DUI caution
The very joyous Jewish holiday of Purim, though not a commanded biblical observance, intrigues Jews from Tel Aviv to Taipei. The event includes celebrations that can be so raucous. One group issued a warning against driving while intoxicated - photo by Mark A. Kellner
Beginning at sundown Wednesday Jews around the world will celebrate the holiday of Purim, commemorating their deliverance from an evil Persian civil servant who'd plotted their destruction.

Any similarity to this week's headlines is, it seems, intentional. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu zeroed in on the connection when he addressed a joint meeting of the Congress on Tuesday.

"A courageous Jewish woman, Queen Esther, exposed the plot (against her people) and gave for the Jewish people the right to defend themselves against their enemies," the International Business Times quoted Netanyahu as saying.

"The plot was foiled, our people were saved. Today the Jewish people face another attempt by yet another Persian potentate to destroy us," he added, referring to present-day Iran, which was at the center of the Persian Empire from 550 B.C. to 330 B.C. At its peak, the business publication reported, Jews were 20 percent of Persia's population.

But geopolitics are likely to fade during most Purim celebrations, where the emphasis is on the long-ago triumph achieved by Esther and her Jewish cohort over the plan of Persian court official Haman to commit genocide.

Jessica Steinberg of The Times of Israel provided a list of celebrations all over the Jewish state, some extending into the weekend. And, she added a bit of trivia: Jerusalem, being a "walled city," at least in its historic area, celebrates Purim a day after everyone else.

Approximately 100 young Jewish professionals in Hong Kong are expected to participate in a "Glow in the Dark" Purim party sponsored by Chabad Lubavitch, the orthodox Jewish organization. The group says its celebration in Taipei, Taiwan, will feature exotic birds.

In the United States, many Jewish community celebrations are tied to weekend events. Last Sunday, Jews in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, celebrated Purim with an outer space-themed carnival, the Times Leader reported.

"One of the great things about this event is that the community works together," Barbara Sugarman, the Jewish Community Association's cultural director, told the newspaper. The (association) works with the synagogues in Wilkes-Barre and Kingston, and we open the celebration to the entire community."

In Framingham, Massachusetts, members of Temple Beth Am adopted the wildly popular Disney feature "Frozen" as the theme for their Purim celebrations, the local Patch news wire noted. Queen Esther was costumed as "Anna" from the film, while Vashti, first wife of the Persian king Ahasuerus, was costumed as "Elsa."

But it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Because the Purim holiday, for adults, often involves ingesting copious quantities of alcoholic beverages, Chaverim of Queens, a charitable group in that New York City borough, will offer free rides home for celebrants who get a little too happy.

"The time and effort to put this program together is well worth it so that we as well as every parent, wife, and friend know that the people they care about will have a safe night and wont be in a position to make any mistakes," program coordinator Avigdor Cyperstein told The Yeshiva World News.

Not everything associated with Purim is fun and games and costumes, however. Writing for Religion News Service, Jewish educator Beth Huppin notes the Purim tradition of giving money to panhandlers, and doing so without reservation.

"One of the holidays religious requirements is to give directly to at least two poor people," Huppin wrote. "On Purim we can trust that we are giving another person an opportunity to make a positive choice with our gift."
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