For Lafayette’s Hillel Society, Purim has been a holiday of giving for many years. And in a trying and turbulent year, their philanthropic efforts took on even greater importance.
Hillel is currently holding its annual Esther’s Helpers fundraiser in honor of Purim, which began yesterday, Feb. 25 and ends this evening, on Feb. 26. They are collecting monetary donations through the end of the day today that will be used to purchase items for Easton’s Third Street Alliance, a shelter for women and children.
Hillel members plan to use the funds to purchase items directly off of the shelter’s wish list for donation. They will also be in direct contact with Third Street Alliance to determine which items are most needed, according to Hillel director and mathematics professor Ethan Berkove. This year, the Alliance highlighted cleaning products for women and children as one of their primary needs.
Typically, Hillel Society celebrates Purim by assembling baskets called mishloach manot to be donated, which generally contain feminine products, according to Hillel’s vice president of social action Olivia Newman ’22. The baskets are then donated to women’s shelters and similar organizations.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Hillel has expanded the list of items that will be donated.
The donations are in line with Purim tradition, where mishloach manot—which means “sending of portions” in Hebrew—are assembled with food and drinks and then delivered to friends and family, Newman explained.
“So it’s like a spin-off on this tradition to donate these baskets,” she said.
The fundraiser’s name, “Esther’s Helpers,” stems from the Book of Esther, which is read during the Jewish Holiday of Purim, according to Berkove.
Newman explained that in the Book, Queen Esther helped save the Jewish people from Haman, an official in the Persian Empire, who supposedly planned to kill all the Jews in the empire. Queen Esther foiled Haman’s plans by telling her husband, the king, about them, so he could put a stop to Haman.
“The idea of Esther’s Helpers is…Esther is this feminist character of this story, so the idea is to emulate that by putting together…feminine care baskets,” Newman said.
“Women’s agency is a major theme of the holiday,” Berkove added.
Berkove explained that a few years ago, students on the Social Action team of Hillel realized that this aspect of the holiday made it a “particularly appropriate time” to fundraise for Third Street Alliance, which is devoted to supporting women.
Donations can be made to Hillel’s Venmo, @Lafayette-Hillel-Society.