Jewish Identity in the time of Achashverosh and today
Sitting here in Jerusalem, thinking about the Megillah that Jews all over the world will read several times in the next few days, I am struck by the historical context in which the story of Achashverosh, Esther and Mordechai took place.
We learn in Chapter 2, verses 5 and 6 in the book of Esther, that Mordechai was the son of Yair, who was the son of Shimei, who was the son of Kish, who had been "carried away from Jerusalem with the captives that had been carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away." In short, we learn that Mordechai was a Diaspora Jew, doing his best to keep up his Jewish identity in a land where Jews were a minority.
Mordechai was clearly not alone; an entire community of Jews lived in Shushan and throughout the provinces of Achashverosh's empire, all of them doing their best to meet the challenges of Jewish life in the Diaspora.
Several thousand years later, Jews today still live in many different communities in many countries around the world. The Haman of today is anti-Semitism, discrimination, isolation and lack of values and identity. Masorti Olami, just like Mordechai, works to support and strengthen Jewish identity, fight anti-Semitism as well as maintain and develop Jewish communities in Europe, Latin America, parts of Asia, Australia and Africa. Our work is meaningful and rewarding as we encounter phenomena of Jewish renewal all around the world.
One example of these phenomena is the Abayudaya community in Uganda, a community of 1,500 local people who converted to Judaism, and today live a traditional Jewish lifestyle according to the values and principles of the Conservative/Masorti movement.
Judy Gray, a long-time Masorti Olami activist, has travelled to Uganda twice in recent years to volunteer with the Abayudaya community, helping them with Jewish identity building programs for their youth as well as other projects. Recently, Israel's Channel 2 prime-time 'Mussaf' magazine show broadcast a report about Judy, her husband Steve, and their work with the Abayudaya. Click below to watch this short video about their work.
If you would like to perform the mitzvah of Matanah Levyonim - a tzedekkah gift - this Purim to help support our work with Masorti communities around the world including the Abayudaya, go to www.masortiworld.org/contribute for details of how to make a donation online, or the address to send your check.
Wishing you a Purim Sam'each,
Rabbi Tzvi Graetz
Executive Director, Masorti Olami