While children across Jewish Day Schools are reciting the infamous Purim song La Kova Sheli Shalosh Pinot and stuffing their faces with handfuls of Hamantaschen, the reality of the ironically perfect timing of Purim this year rings a more grim note. Purim is a holiday where, along with Megillah reading and dressing up in costume, we are reminded of the peril that the Jewish community faced at the hands of Haman, vizier to King Ahasuerus of the Persian Empire. If you are a bit rusty on the Purim story, allow me to share a brief recap.
According to the Book of Esther, Haman’s intense loathing of the Jewish population within the empire stemmed from a single interaction he had with a man named Mordechai. Mordechai refused to bow down before him, and thus the seed of hatred was planted, quickly growing impenetrable roots in Haman. Haman concocted a plan to annihilate all the Jews living under Persian rule, a plan that he hastened by coaxing King Ahasuerus to consent and pick a date for the extermination. Haman cast lots to pick a date, and the lot fell on the thirteenth day of Adar. Word got around about this wicked plan, and Morderchai, rightfully scared for his life, presented his uncle’s daughter, Esther, to be presented to the King at an event that the King was hosting on the royal grounds. The king immediately grew fond of Esther, favoring her beauty over all other suitors, and quickly made her the new queen, replacing Queen Vashti. Esther, now in the King’s favor, requested that her life be spared, along with the lives of all her fellow Jews who lived under Persian rule, and the story ends with Haman and his infamous pointy, triangular hat being hanged at the very gallows intended to murder Mordechai along with thousands of other Jews.
The holiday as a whole celebrates the survival of the Jewish people even under the most surely morbid circumstances. One of the main takeaways from this holiday is to remember that we should celebrate the fact that we, as a people, have not perished rather than mourn the devastating outcome that could have been. We make noise with groggers, yell, and boo when we hear Haman’s name, and, traditionally, we reenact the events that are written in the book of Esther. Usually, it is a holiday full of spirit and a strong sense of pride about the ability to endure the inherent hatred that comes with being Jewish. However, with the rising trend in anti-semitism and the recently reported hate crimes targeting Jews in the greater Los Angeles area, is it not a tad paradoxical that we celebrate being alive in a time where the hatred expressed by Haman over two thousand years ago seems to be protruding its ugly head once more?
Just last month, two Jewish men were shot leaving a synagogue on Pico Boulevard, a neighborhood of Los Angeles that is primarily dominated by Jews. The perpetrator had a history of making antisemitic threats towards Jewish people, outlandishly claiming that “every single aspect of the COVID agenda is Jewish.” The perpetrator had conveniently targeted his victims a few days before a national event coined by neo-Nazi groups called the “National Day of Hatred” took place. It is a grim reality that threats like this will always exist, no matter how many people die purely out of an unquenchable thirst to decimate the Jewish population and based on no substantial reason other than plain hatred. In Los Angeles alone, anti-Jewish hate crimes went up 13% in the first ten months of 2022, according to an article published by the LA Times, and though it is merely the beginning of 2023, the blatantly antisemitic rants made by rapper Kanye West are setting the stage for a much more concerning increase in antisemitism in the near future. Most recently, the rapper’s raw words have inspired a hate group to wave a banner on the 405 freeway overpass in Los Angeles that read, “Kanye is right about the Jews.”
Unfortunately, there will always be modern-day humans who take advantage of their power and disseminate undignified hatred against the Jewish population. With high-profile figures spewing out lies and inspiring defamatory rhetoric about the Jewish people through the easily accessible platforms allowed to them by social media, perhaps hatred is a much easier choice to make nowadays. However, there are two courses of action that can be taken: one would be to mourn the state of the Jewish community today and portray ourselves as helpless victims, and the other would be to do what we do best: shout from the rooftops that we are still here, that we have survived for thousands of years, and to emphasize that we are here to stay. So, this Purim, as antisemitism reaches a peak and the political climate has grossly fallen against the Jewish community, I implore you to think about the true meaning of this holiday and to celebrate as loudly as you possibly can. After all, it’s what Esther and Mordechai would have wanted had they lived in 2023.
“The views expressed in this post reflect the views of the author(s) and not UCLA or ASUCLA Communications Board.”