For a holiday measured by costumes and general silliness, at the Y we take our Purim obligations pretty seriously. According to Jewish tradition, there are four primary observances to making a complete Purim. Four specific ways to internalize some of the hidden and revealed messages embedded within the holiday. When planning the Purim celebration at the Y, we decided to give extra attention to one of the four obligations that is often most overlooked: matanot l’evyonim, gifts to the poor. Tradition tells us this can be gifts of money, food and drink, or even clothing.
Food scarcity is a serious issue for many of the inhabitants in our region of Manhattan. Through the work of our Center for Adults Living Well, it is an issue we’ve been addressing for many years. Purim, and specifically this mitzvah (commandment) to provide food to those in need, gave us a great excuse to create more awareness around this issue. But more important in terms of immediacy, this mitzvah raised money to further combat food insecurity.
We didn’t want to simply ask people for money. We wanted to create a communal, every-cent-helps atmosphere. So in the lead up to Purim, we did a focused two-week coin drive. Every day at lunch time and during the youth program dismissals, I took around a giant, empty water jug and asked people to donate their coins. Any amount was appreciated. Gradually the jug got heavier and heavier. More and more people brought in their coins from home which had been sitting in a bowl collecting dust. It was heartening to see so many people contribute.
In all, the Y community raised $415.07. This translates to 41 additional meals that the Y can provide for the food insecure. That’s 41 seniors who don’t have to worry about where that next nutritious meal will come from.
Our warm thanks to the amazing Y community who opened their change purses to help their neighbors in need!
By Rabbi Ezra Weinberg, Youth & Family Department