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Community and Resilience: Two Lessons for Purim

The lessons and traditions of Purim seem especially meaningful this year.
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February 29, 2024
A gathering at Café Europa. Photo from Facebook/JFSLA

The lessons and traditions of Purim seem especially meaningful this year. As we navigate a post-October 7 world, there is profound wisdom to be found in the ancient Scroll of Esther. 

Megillat Esther tells the story of a people in exile, dependent and under threat. Dispersed across the provinces, “from Hodu to Cush” says the Megillah (from India to Ethiopia), the Jewish people are seemingly fractured and weak. In the course of the story, they discover the power of community. 

Separated by vast distances, they nonetheless come together in fasting and prayer. Removed from their roots in the Land of Israel, they discover their enduring connection to each other. And in the end, having escaped the king’s decree of death, they celebrate together. The megillah concludes with a letter from Mordechai and Esther to Jews around the world, charging them to establish the Purim holiday, and “to observe them as days of feasting and gladness, for sending delicacies to one another, and for giving gifts to the poor.” Here, the Megillah describes the essence of community – the sharing of each other’s joys, and the embracing of the less fortunate among us.

As CEO of Jewish Family Service LA, I witness the power of community every day. I see how the Los Angeles Jewish community stands by each other, supporting our last remaining Holocaust survivors in dignity, providing kosher home-delivered meals for our elderly and providing counseling support for struggling individuals and families. And I see how the Los Angeles Jewish community stands with our neighbors, ensuring that all Angelenos have access to critical support, whether it’s food at our SOVA Food Pantries, shelter at our domestic violence shelters or intensive case management for frail older adults to keep them safe and healthy in the community.

We live by values that transcend the fears and hurt of this moment and hold the promise of a different, better future. We lift ourselves up by uplifting others. We heal ourselves by giving from our hearts. No terrorist can take that away. 

But there is an even more profound lesson to take from the Purim story – the lesson of resilience. The Jewish people have endured and persevered from crisis to crisis with the same sense of pride and determination as Esther and Mordechai. Just as Mordechai refused to bow to Haman (both literally and figuratively), so too must Jewish Angelenos refuse to compromise our values. We will stand for what is good and right to protect and help our sisters and brothers wherever they are and lend a caring hand to all in need. We demonstrate what being in community means. We live by values that transcend the fears and hurt of this moment and hold the promise of a different, better future. We lift ourselves up by uplifting others. We heal ourselves by giving from our hearts. No terrorist can take that away. 

JFSLA is privileged to host weekly social gatherings for survivors of the Holocaust, called Café Europa. As I stood in the room last Tuesday, a performer was singing stirring Israeli music. Survivors were sitting, some singing along, some standing and even swaying a bit, their watchful caregivers close by. I saw community. I saw resilience. I saw the past. And I saw the future.


Eli Veitzer is the President and CEO of Jewish Family Service LA.

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