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Jewish Holiday Begins With a Clamor

Harvard Students Celebrate Purim

By Erik J. Dahl

Amid the clamor of banging potlids, whirling noisemakers and stamping feet, Harvard's Jewish community celebrated the holiday of Purim Thursday night at Phillips Brooks House and the Harvard Hillel Society.

The festival, which ends tonight with a costume party sponsored by Hillel, celebrates the deliverance of the Jews from a massacre at the hands of Haman, a prime minister of ancient Persia.

During special Purim services, worshipers listen as the Rabbi reads the biblical story from the scroll of Megilah, and then make noise in an effort to drown out Haman's name when it is read.

"It's a fun holiday," Pamela S. Becker '80, who attended the conservative-reformed services at PBH, said yesterday, adding, "It's so absurd in a way."

The crowd "started making noise before they said his name," and the Rabbi had to raise his hand for silence until Haman's name was mentioned, Becker said.

"It seems like it might be a little infantile, but it's fun," Alisa R. Robbins '80, who was also at the PBH services, said yesterday.

"The people who were there wanted to be there, and they really got into it," Robbins said, adding about the party tonight, "A dance and Purim just seem to go together; it's a more festive holiday."

The scroll of Megilah tells of the Persian king's decision to allow Haman to kill the Jews, and how the king's wife Esther, who was Jewish, persuaded him to reconsider. Eventually Haman himself was killed.

Because Haman by tradition wore a three-cornered hat, part of the celebration includes eating triangular, stuffed pastries called hamantaschen.

The Baigel Bin sells hamantaschen throughout the year, but sales always go up during Purim, Mark Saltman, a store employee, said.

Not all Harvard Jewish students are observing Purim closely. "I had a hamantaschen, and that's about it," Robert Weinstein '80 said yesterday.

Weinstein added that a friend gave him his hamantaschen, and "I had apricot, but I really wanted poppy seed."

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