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Community Invited to Celebrate Jewish and Indian Holidays Together

RELEASED: March 16, 2005

EAU CLAIRE — The Jewish and Indian communities of the Chippewa Valley invite the wider community to join them in a joint celebration of the Jewish holiday of Purim and the Indian holiday of Holi at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 30, in the Council Fire Room of Davies Center at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Holi originated in North India as a Hindu festival but has become a holiday celebrated throughout India by people of all backgrounds. A joyous celebration of the coming of spring and the birth of new life, Holi celebrates the ultimate triumph of good over evil, as explained in a sacred story about the defeat of a demon.

The story of Purim is told in the biblical Book of Esther. The Jewish community living in Persia was threatened with extinction when Haman, the arrogant adviser to King Ahaseurus, plotted to destroy them. Through the bravery and cleverness of Queen Esther, the King was informed of the plot, the Jewish people were saved, and the wicked Haman was hung on the gallows that he had prepared for Esther’s uncle Mordechai. People celebrate Purim by going to the synagogue to listen to the recitation of the Book of Esther, sending gifts of food to friends and giving money to feed the poor.

In common with many other holidays around the world, Purim and Holi involve eating special foods, singing and dancing. Both holidays also give permission to those celebrating to break the usual rules and "act out." Celebrants of Holi place color on other people, and in some parts of India they drench each other in water and colored powder. Young men and women are allowed to come closer to each other than usual, so Holi is a courting festival. The usual distinctions of status by age and social class are ignored during the holiday.

Purim is a time for wearing costumes and being someone other than yourself. People are encouraged to drink so much that they can’t tell the difference between "bless Mordechai" and "curse Haman." Although the Torah — the Five Books of Moses — is sacred, during Purim the teachings are the subject of parody. Revered rabbis are satirized. What is treasured most throughout the year is made fun of during the holiday.

Members of the Indian and Jewish communities will explain the background and celebration of these holidays at this joint event. Those attending will be able to participate in the celebration by applying color for Holi, making noise when the name of Haman is uttered during the recitation of the Book of Esther, and eating Indian and Jewish pastries. Participants are encouraged to come in costume and to bring rattles or other noisemakers.

The free event is co-sponsored by the University Activities Commission, Center for International Education, Indian Abroad Student Association, Jewish Student Association and Temple Sholom.

For more information, contact Dr. Helaine Minkus, associate professor of anthropology, (715) 836-5481, Dr. Veena Chadha, associate professor of mathematics, (715) 836-3727, or Dr. Shyam Chadha, professor of mathematics, (715) 836-3272.

-30-

HM/NW

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