Thursday, March 15, 2012

Purim in Podgaytse

Last week was the holiday of Purim on the Jewish calendar -- a day of celebrating, hearing the Megillah, eating festive meals, exchanging gifts, and giving charity. In Eastern Europe, the purim-shpil, or Purim play, was a popular phenomenon: performers would visit homes during the holiday and entertain those present with skits, songs, and comedy. Dressing up in costumes and wearing masks was another common custom, as mentioned in this week's clip by Izrail Gliazer from Podgaytse, Ukraine. Izrail was born in 1919 and received a traditional Jewish education in a kheyder (religious school for boys). 

AHEYM interviewed Gliazer in Ternopil', Ukraine, in 2005. Gliazer mentions a few other traditions that were observed in Podgaytse on Purim. One that was fairly common throughout Eastern Europe but that may be surprising today is the custom of playing dreidel on Purim, a practice usually associated with the holiday of Khanike (Hanukkah). Finally, Gliazer discusses "purim gelt" -- money that was collected on Purim to fulfill the commandment of giving charity. He enumerates various organizations that were active in his town, such as the Zionist Trumpeldor organization, representatives of which would go door-to-door collecting money on Purim.

--Asya Vaisman

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