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Putting a New Twist on the Ol' Purim Carnival
By Sierra Debrow, ISJL Education Fellow
Every year, Jewish communities all over the world feel tasked with reinventing the proverbial Ferris wheel. That’s right. I’m talking about planning the annual Purim carnival. Each time we host an outstanding, out-of-the-box event, there is inevitable pressure to top it every single year. Here are a few ways to get the ball rolling, bringing some fresh and fun ideas to your Jewish community!
One of the best ways to set the mood of your Purim carnival is to have a set theme around which everything else is centered. For this year’s carnival, draw inspiration from your favorite television shows. The popularity of the American Horror Story franchise has only grown in the past few years; for 5778, try the theme American Horror Story: Purim Carnival! Nothing says “creative” and “fun” like scaring the pants off of your littlest learners. If your community wants a theme more directly inspired by the story of Purim, we still have you covered. In Megillat Esther, King Ahasuerus hosts a contest to find his new queen. In the same vein, turn this year’s Purim carnival into your version of Toddlers & Tiaras; students and parents alike can compete, pageant style, to see who the real religious school royalty is. Remember: there can only be one winner. Participation trophies were so last year.
No Purim carnival is truly complete without a dunk tank. Kids and adults alike both go gaga for the opportunity to dunk their favorite (or least favorite) religious school teacher. But after a few years of the same setup, a dunk tank station at a Purim carnival begins to feel a little stale. This year, instead of filling the tank with icy cold water, add some excitement—add a shark! These aquatic creatures are much safer than you think. The University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File asserts that, in one year in the United States, sharks injured just 13 people; in that same year, nearly 200,000 were hurt in accidents involving ladders, toilets, and chainsaws. By those standards, it is safer to put a shark in your carnival’s dunk tank than using a toilet while holding a chainsaw.
Hamantashen are a Purim staple. The triangular cookies always have delicious fillings ranging from fruit and jam to chocolate or poppy seeds. For cookies that represent the hat (or ears or pockets, depending on the interpretation) of Haman—the villain of the Purim story—they sure taste delicious! Haman is an awfully awful character. To teach students just how despicable Haman is, fill the Hamantashen at your Purim carnival with something different! Toothpaste, horseradish, and chopped liver are all perfect for the occasion. If you really want to take things up a notch, have your community members guess what the filling of each cookie. Whoever guesses each filling correctly gets to take home the inevitable extra Hamantashen you will have lying around!
Purim carnivals are an opportunity for your community to turn expectations on their ears and do something completely out of the blue. Hopefully, we sparked some ideas for you to implement in your 2018 Purim carnival!