“I enjoyed Purim In Israel very much, and so has my sixteen-year-old son,” said Forest Hills resident Irina Abayeva. “I love the enthusiasm of Rabbi Mendy and his family, the family-like atmosphere, and the food.”
After months of planning, the event gave guests a taste of Israel, and the timing was ideal, as CFHN plans to take members of the community for the first time to Israel in November.
“In Chabad, we plan Purim themes with a message to take away,” said CFHN co-founder Rabbi Mendy Hecht. “The theme made everyone feel as if they are in Israel living the culture for a few hours, while expressing the importance of its holiness and our Jewish heritage.”
One wall of CFHN featured a large painting of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Attendees designed cards that will be placed at the Western Wall for special blessings.
“The community had a choice, and that was their pick,” said Rabbi Hecht, who dressed up along with his family as soldiers in the Israeli Defense Force, tying into the theme and custom of wearing costumes on Purim.
Svetlana Racklin attended with her husband Justin and their two young children, Evan, who dressed up as an astronaut, and Elliot as a doctor.
“Rabbi Mendy and Rebbetzin Chaya are genuinely going out of their way to provide the most amazing atmosphere spiritually and emotionally,” the Forest Hills resident said. “I am happy to see my kids growing up with The Hecht attitude, where they make your love for Torah and Hashem very special and yours.”
The food for the event came from Pahal Zan at 106-12 Continental Avenue, and two types of quality wine were served from Teperberg, founded in Jerusalem in 1870. Dishes included falafel, pita, tahini, and oranges.
“They prepare their food with love and care, and you see it in the service, the taste, and the Kashrut (kosher laws),” said Rabbi Hecht. “Although the oranges were American grown, the point was to squeeze them fresh, just like in Jaffa, Israel.”
Purim marks the Jewish people’s victory over the evil Haman, who wanted to physically eradicate the Jewish nation of values, morals, and ethics during the time of the Persian Empire.
“This is when we take pride as the Jewish nation that will forever persevere in trials and tribulations, to continue to be a light onto the nations,” said Rabbi Hecht.
It is also a tradition to offer monetary gifts to at least two impoverished people, and offer gifts of two types of food to at least one person.
“There is a code of Jewish law that states that ‘if you read the story of Purim backwards, you have not fulfilled the Mitzvah (good deed),'” said Rabbi Hecht. “The Chassidic masters teach us that it doesn't only mean literally, but also in the sense that if we read the story of Purim as a history book and not something we live with today and learn from, we have not fulfilled our obligation and Mitzvah.”
Passover will begin on March 30, and the public can RSVP for an interactive Seder led by Rabbi Mendy Hecht featuring a catered homemade four-course meal by Rebbetzin Chaya Hecht. For more information, visit ChabadFHN.com.