Costumes, games, reading scripture mark Purim celebration in Wilkes-Barre

i Mar 13th 2017

By Geri Gibbons, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader

WILKES-BARRE — A carnival celebrating Purim at the Jewish Community Center on Sunday brought area residents, young and old, out for a time of time of fun and reflection.

The holiday, known as the Feast of Lots, celebrates the victory of Queen Esther after Haman, an evil tyrant, unsuccessfully sought to wipe out the Jewish people in ancient Persia, as recounted in the Book of Esther.

The event, which was open to the community, brought a welcome reprieve to winter’s continuing grip on the area, with a bounce house, dozens of games and a parade that delighted young attendees.

Richie Kraus, 17, of Shavertown, manned the “Frog Flinger” game, taking time to encourage young attendees to aim carefully and to have fun.

Kraus remembers participating in the carnival when he was younger, especially the parade.

“I really liked dressing up in costume,” he said. “My favorite was Luke Skywalker.”

Ed and Pat Dobrowolski have volunteered at the event for over 20 years and Sunday found them manning a brightly colored pinball game.

“We really enjoy the day,” said Pat Dobrowolski. “I remember bringing my granddaughter when she was really little and now she’s 20. We have many memories of those days.”

Youngsters participating in various games received coins for their efforts and were able to redeem the colorful “currency” for a variety of small toys.

“Many people compare Purim to Halloween,” said volunteer Lisa Greenburg, of Kingston. “The children really enjoy getting small gifts and candy and having fun.”

To Paula Chaiken, a mother of three from Shavertown, the annual event has become a tradition.

“They enjoy prizes, good food and, mostly, time with friends,” she said.

Chaiken said she enjoyed seeing her children’s participation in the event change every year.

“When they are really young, they love dressing up,” she said. “Then they transition to playing games and eventually to volunteering and helping kids younger than them.”

An avid sports lover, Jacob Sugarman, 14, of Hazleton, manned the basketball toss.

Looking back on his own participation in the event, it is no surprise that as a youngster, his favorite costumes were sports related.

“Dressing up like a football player was my favorite,” he said.

Volunteer Leah Dougherty, of Kingston, underscored that although the day was one of fun, food and recreation, members of the community center did not forget those who could not get to the center.

“We delivered food,” she said. “It’s also a time of generosity.”

Barbara Sugarman, the JCC’s cultural director, said Purim, like all other Jewish holidays, runs from sundown to sundown, with most attendees having celebrated at their home synagogue on Saturday and then coming to the community center on Sunday for the carnival. She said about 100 people attended the event.