Purim in Scotch Plains

Purim in Scotch Plains

Congregation Beth Israel of Scotch Plains and Temple Emanu-El of Westfield joined with Jewish camps for the “Purim Amazing Race.” Run on February 21, before Purim, it was a safe and fun way for families to celebrate the festive holiday during the pandemic.

The program was modeled after the popular television show, “The Amazing Race.” The scavenger hunt was open to congregants of all ages and abilities. To enroll, participants contributed items for the local food pantry, fulfilling the Purim commandment to give gifts to the needy.

Approximately 75 teams of families raced around the towns of Scotch Plains and Westfield in their cars, with the goal of helping Queen Esther once again save the Jewish people, as she did in Shushan. Participants stopped at such places as the YMCA, the JCC of Central NJ, and Kramer Park in Scotch Plains, and visited sites including the Westfield Memorial Library, Mindowaskin Park, and McKinley School in Westfield. At each of the 15 outdoor locations, contestants participated in missions that were both educational and enjoyable, such as designing a crown for Queen Esther, or performing a family talent act for King Ahasuerus’ pageant.

“We needed to replace the traditional Purim carnival held in a crowded indoor space with an alternative activity held outside,” Aviva Tilles, congregational learning director of at Congregation Beth Israel, said. “We collaborated with Temple Emanu-El because our two synagogues faced the same challenges. And we realized that we could develop and implement something really great if we joined forces.”

Ms. Tilles partnered with Temple Emanu-El’s Samara Schwartz, director of youth learning and engagement, and Samantha Eichert, her assistant director.

Jewish camps and camping programs, including Camp Yachad at the JCC of Central NJ, Camp Nah-Jee-Wah, Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, Camp Harlam, and One Happy Camper, also created and ran four of the stops along the course. One Happy Camper, a non-profit organization, provided additional funding for the race.

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