No sooner did we celebrate Purim last year that school closed, on March 12, 2020. Upon entering lockdown, we communicated to our parents that the building would be shut “until further notice.” We simply did not know when or how we would overcome the rampaging coronavirus pandemic; we had no way of knowing that half a million Americans would lose their lives, including a beloved member of our own school, and many in the greater Detroit community, which was particularly hard hit in the early months of the pandemic.
It was uncanny that the world turned on its head immediately following Purim, a holiday whose theme is ונהפוך הוא (to turn things upside down, inside out, reordered). But while on Purim, the seemingly insignificant were exalted, the weak were saved, and good triumphed over evil, as 2020 wore on, it seemed that the pandemic was winning: plans were thwarted, fates were reversed, and suffering spread. At school, we banded together to finish the school year remotely, to comfort the bereaved, and to ease the hardship for those financially affected by the virus.
A year into the pandemic, Purim is upon us once again. This time, after successfully reopening school in September with strict protocols for in-person learning, another of the holiday’s themes resonates with me: to hold out hope that no matter how dire the circumstances, things will turn out well in the end. The rate of infection in our state is lower and effective vaccines are on the market and increasingly being administered to Americans. We have much to be thankful for, and there is no better holiday than Purim to be so.
Of course, we will be celebrating Purim at school the same way we learn every day, according to our health and safety guidelines, and in a manner that fully includes students learning in our flexible model program. Despite the grief and fatigue wrought by the past year, our students and staff will revel in the holiday, wearing costumes and masks, assembling mishloach manot for classmates, friends, and family; fulfilling the mitzvot of matanot l'evyonim (giving gifts to those less fortunate) and listening to the Megillah at school; and participating in a Purim Seudah (a festive Purim meal). We will be joyful, and I cannot wait to see everyone in costume tomorrow!
חג פורים שמח
Chag Purim Sameach. Have a safe and festive Purim!
Dr. Darin S. Katz
Dr. Darin S. Katz is Head of School at Hillel Day School.