The New Line of Kids’ Holidays is Finally Out!

Today is Rosh Chodesh—the first day of the Jewish month of Adar II. This month is noteworthy for two reasons: First, it reminds us that we are in the middle of a Jewish leap year, when we add an entire extra month of Adar in order to keep the Jewish holidays aligned with the seasons (although lighting the Chanukah menorah on the beach in July does sound appealing). Second, while the entire Jewish world is disingenuously singing the tired ditty Mi Shenichnas Adar (“When you begin Adar, you increase your joy!”) to mark the approaching holiday of Purim, Jewish professionals are furtively meeting in bunkers and underground conference rooms plotting how to excise this horrific and dreadful holiday from all of our Jewish calendars.

Yes, that’s right, it’s time for my annual Purim Screed™.

I don’t need to go into the many reasons why I, along with many (most?) of my colleagues, secretly (or not so secretly) despise this holiday—you can read all about them here and here. Instead, I’m marveling at the success of Purim over the generations—how this ridiculous story full of violence, misogyny, and Machiavellian scheming shot to the top of the ratings and became the unlikely favorite of parents and little kids in congregations everywhere.

But perhaps I’m looking at all of this the wrong way—turning every Biblical narrative into a kids’ story is clearly the low hanging fruit of the Jewish world. After all, it worked with Noah—a cute story of widespread human destruction that features a boat and animals.

Here, then, are my suggestions for additional Purim-like occasions to add to the Jewish calendar, providing us more ways to engage the kids and their families and to engender a stronger connection to Judaism. Note that these new holidays specifically emphasize important female Biblical characters just like Esther.

Family Day

This is actually an existing holiday in certain Canadian provinces. We should borrow this idea by gathering all of our Religious School families together in the sanctuary to read the heartwarming story of Lot and his daughters, and the epic lengths that these two courageous girls went through in order to save the human race. After the brief service, it will be traditional to eat foods prepared with salt.

Staff Day

Just as we celebrate Esther and her incredible bravery for entering a beauty contest and participating in a harem, so too should we mark the accomplishments of another heroine and role model for our young girls: Tamar. She was the one who went to great lengths, using a borrowed staff, to teach her father-in-law Judah an uplifting and moral lesson about honesty and humility. As we do with Purim, we might consider having two services: the first will be geared exclusively towards the family crowd with the kids dressing up and acting out a spiel about Judah and Tamar. It might be best to wait for the later service to mention Tamar’s second husband, Onan.

Jewish Job Fair

We’re all acquainted with the powerful story of Job—a righteous and loyal man whose only misfortune took place when God lost him in a poker game. As Satan (kids, here’s an opportunity for more noise makers in shul!) unleashes one calamity after another upon Job, he inexplicably remains committed to God. It’s only Mrs. Job (sorry—the Bible never bothered to give her a name but we could stage a contest for the kids to come up with one) who demonstrates any common sense in this story and exhorts her husband to see what’s right in front of his eyes and curse the deity who ruined his life for no reason. What a strong model of feminine sensibility that’s appropriate for all ages. The date for this holiday does not need to be fixed; instead, we’ll wait for the National Weather Service to issue a tornado warning and then gather in the parking lot to read the story together.

I’ll be looking forward to seeing all of you soon for Game of Thrones Purim and hope that these new holidays catch on soon.

Cantor Matt Axelrod has served Congregation Beth Israel of Scotch Plains, NJ since 1990. He is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and a national officer of the Cantors Assembly. Cantor Axelrod is the author of Surviving Your Bar/Bat Mitzvah: The Ultimate Insider's Guide, and Your Guide to the Jewish Holidays: From Shofar to Seder.

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