A quick Purim primer from MyJewishLearning.Com:
“A young Jewish woman, Esther, rises to be Queen of Persia under the tutelage of her guardian Mordecai. All, however, is not right. The Jews have enemies, and a certain Haman, the grand vizier, plots the Jews’ destruction. Even though Esther has hidden her Jewish identity from all, Mordecai prevails on her to risk her life by revealing her true identity to the king. She does this and denounces the evil Haman’s plot. At the end of the story, the Jews are able to turn the tables on their enemies, who are then punished in place of the intended victims.”
“Purim is a community holiday of joyful celebration. The centerpiece of the communal celebration is the reading of the Scroll of Esther, the Megillah, in the synagogue. This is a raucous affair, with whoops, hollers, and noise being made every time that Haman’s name is mentioned, so no one can hear the name of this horrible evildoer. Another tradition is the Purim shpiel, the Purim play, during which fun is poked at community leaders and members. Purim has often been called the Jewish carnival, and dressing in costume and taking part in a Purim carnival heighten the levity of the day, on which one is encouraged to engage in activities that at other times of the year would be somewhat more restricted in scope, such as drinking.”
The Purim class/discussion was really interesting and really validating. We learned about the holiday itself in the reading, and some discussion from Rabbi L (including the rabbinical arguments about how drunk one must get on Purim). What dominated most of the discussion however was one of the journal topics.
Have you ever been in a situation where you felt threatened because of your identity? Had to
hide who you really are? Is there anything that you would be willing to risk your life to protect?
One of the great and interesting things about my conversion class is that a solid half of us are queer/LGBT of some variety. All of us looked at this prompt and shared the collective bitter laugh of the oppressed. This isn’t our first time hiding a fundamental part of who we are. This isn’t the first time we’re contemplating the hatred we’ll experience if people know too much about us. It’s just another round at the rodeo.
Personally, my answer is yes, of course, and yes definitely. I grew up in small town East Texas, Oklahoma, rural Virginia, and cornfields galore Ohio. Of course I have hidden who I really am. Of course I have felt threatened because of my identity. This isn’t new. And it’s not a fight I intend to lose. Hatred won’t closet me forever, won’t keep me from the people I love or from living my authentic truth. I won’t let hatred keep me from religion either, if that’s what I have to face to become part of this one.
I am nervous about “coming out” as a potential Jew, a potential convert for several reasons. Part of it is the “Jew”, part of it is the “convert”, part of it is the “potential”. I am still undecided, still afraid to step on toes and do things wrong and claim something that isn’t mine. I am afraid that Jewish people I know will judge me or not want me. I’m also afraid already of running into antisemitism and judgement from that direction as well. But I know that I can fight hate from a lot of different avenues already, so I can probably gather the courage to do it here as well.