They did all the mitzvot!
More than 60 people — kids, adults, and even Holocaust survivors — from the Brighton Beach community celebrated Purim with food, games, and costumes at the Warbasse Jewish Heritage Congregation on March 23. Warbasse’s spiritual leader sported an oversized polka-dotted bow tie for Purim. Like all of the shul’s events, this one was warm and welcoming for all, he said.
“It was a fabulous night,” said Rabbi David Okunov. “Overall it was really exceptional food, venue, atmosphere, everybody felt at home. That’s what we try to portray — a very cozy, warm feeling. People embrace that and people come because they feel accepted.”
Having so many people rejoice in the shul was a miracle in and of itself — like the Jews escaping the evil wrath of holiday bad-guy Haman — because synagogue president Boris Shnayderman restored the entire shul himself and brought back congregants after it was basically abandoned a few years ago, said Boris’s daughter, Gabrielle.
“He basically saved the synagogue, because nobody was coming and it was dying” she said. “We didn’t even have enough people for a minyan [the quorum for public worship], he built everything, With the help of the Rabbi, they were able to start prayers again, having minyans, and having parties for the high holidays and it’s great, because on holidays like this, the community gets together and everybody comes and celebrates and prays.”
And the celebration wasn’t just for kids to dress up in cute costumes — two Holocaust survivors got up to read poems, which was very surreal, said Gabrielle.
“We had Holocaust survivors,” said Gabrielle, who dressed up as holiday heroine Queen Esther. “They both read poems that the Rabbi made. You have this 93-year-old woman, being in her presence is amazing.”