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Purim’s timeless lessons

Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, addresses the UN General Assembly (File photograph by Manuel Elías/United Nations)

Dear Sir,

Purim 2023 festive celebrations were observed between sundown March 6 and nightfall March 7.

But what is Purim, and what lessons does it impart to modern societies including Bermuda?

Purim is the 2,500-year-old Jewish spring festival joyfully commemorating Jewish survival in the face of attempted genocide. Chronicled in the biblical Book of Esther, the story is recounted how Jew hatred led a high official (Haman) of the Persian Empire to plot the slaughter of all Jews across the empire spanning from India to Ethiopia. Miraculously, the Jews escaped through God’s divinely orchestrated events when Queen Esther and her cousin, Mordecai, courageously fought Jew hatred.

In his 2020 article: “The Keys to Understanding American anti-Semitism — And Fighting Back,” the late rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks opined on Purim and its modern significance. Notably:

1, Society’s recognition that “anti-Semitism has little to do with Jews”. For “they are its object, not its cause — and everything to do with dysfunction in the communities that harbour it”

2, Recognition by Jewish communities that they “cannot fight anti-Semitism alone”. Why? “The victim cannot cure the crime.” Hence, the need for making allies, fostering solidarity — creating partnerships in leading the fight. “This is best done by explaining how anti-Semitism endangers everyone because the hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews.” Recall unheeded lessons from history’s worst genocide, eg, “Remembering the Holocaust”.

Finally, anyone (group) concerned about Jew hatred (eg, Arnold Schwarzenegger) should note the American Jewish Committee’s “Call to Action Against Anti-Semitism.”

Locally, Bermuda’s Jewish community must know they have allies whenever combating this resurgent societal hatred. The United Nations recommended this strategy, having deemed history’s oldest hatred as a, “toxic to democracy”; b, “a threat to all societies if left unaddressed”; and c, “the canary in the coalmine of global hatred”.



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Published March 24, 2023 at 6:12 am (Updated March 24, 2023 at 6:12 am)

Purim’s timeless lessons

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