My 1st Frum Purim by Peter Levavi

My 1st Frum Purim by Peter Levavi

24 years ago, my husband, Joshua, was volunteering on a secular, Shomer Hatsair kibbutz when he met recent law-school graduate Peter Levavi. Despite the 8-year age difference between them, Josh and Peter became close friends, and spent many late nights at the kibbutz dining hall debating what it really means to be Jewish. Over the past two-and-a-half decades, Josh and Peter have stayed in touch, but today their dining-hall discussions take place over Email. Earlier this year, Peter and his family moved to an Orthodox neighborhood, and the following is the Email Peter sent Josh yesterday about his impressions of his first Purim–Skokie-style.

I was a bit sad that no one showed up at our new house in Skokie for Halloween this year.

On my side of West Rogers Park, kids came from all over the city to see the decorated homes and line up for candy. They came in all kinds of costumes and from all different ethnicities. In Skokie, no one. I’m not exaggerating. Not a single kid in a costume asking for candy. I thought, “What an impoverished civic spirit.”

Yesterday, after the megilla reading, I sat reading in my chair by the front window. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Packs of kids dressed in costumes were going door to door delivering packages of candy and hamantaschen.

It was reverse Halloween! Nahafoch hu! A holiday of giving rather than taking.

And the color and care in each costume. Not like Rogers Park with all the vampires and ghouls, but beautiful, well-constructed, upbeat, color-coordinated costumes. A holiday of joy and life, instead of fear and death.

The packages were all hand-made, containing a drink (grape juice, beer, even a diet Pepsi), some hamantaschen (some homemade, other’s store-bought from local kosher bakeries), candies and gum, nuts and raisins. All with a label wishing us well from a neighbor, often telling us the names of all of their children.

My daughter, Bella, went to a friend’s house to watch the Oscars in a very wealthy section of Chicago, and at the front door was a store-bought shalach-manos package covered with cellophane that looked like a Christmas basket that we receive at work. I love the architecture and the quality of the homes there, but where is the love in a fancy two-foot high store-bought shalach manos?

The Levavi family


I am overwhelmed.

I have lived 50 years and never really understood Purim. Yes, I have read the megila and shouted down Haman’s name. I have drunken scotch until I couldn’t tell the difference between wicked Haman and blessed Mordechai.

But I never imagined the joy and the giving of Purim.

I used to wonder whether one can really fully be an American, and participate in all of the American traditions, and still appreciate our Jewish traditions. Now in Skokie, I see it is really the other way around…

Peter Levavi works as a developer of mixed income housing in the Midwest, but once upon a time was the Associate Dean of Spertus College and a practicing attorney. Today he thinks a lot about what we can bequeath our children other than money and real estate, and the best way to instill important Jewish values to our progeny.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com user Rachel

Related posts:

Hey, Look at This! by Chaya Houpt
Gilad Shalit Recites 1st Blessing of Gratitude Since Release (1-Minute Moving Video)
Our Highly Unusual Houseguest

One comment

  1. I love your articles and the articles you post. Always inspiring and thought provoking!

Leave a Reply