By Christian Sanchez
Thursday, March 9th, Artistic Director Kevin Coval hosted the first ever Purim Interfaith Celebration held by YCA. The purpose of the event was to bring together people from all faiths to celebrate and learn about Purim. The event was also co-sponsored by the Chicago Theological Seminary’s Center for Jewish, Christian and Islamic Studies.
The event was celebrated at YCA headquarters. Along the walls were drawings with captions that explained the story of Purim. Punch and Hamentashen were put out for guests. Those in attendance excitedly chatted with one another waiting for the event to start.
I spoke with two Northwestern freshmen, Harley Kirchoff and Makaa Kopeland, who came out to the Purim celebration due to their poetry professor Nate Marshall. This was their first YCA event and first experience with a Purim celebration in all regards. Both students grew up outside of Chicago, Texas and Connecticut respectively. “YCA gives us a new perspective on Chicago,” Kirchoff shared. Both students were excited to be able to get to know Chicago through a different lens.
IfNotNow was one of the partners for the event and were set up to talk to guests that night. Consisted of mostly young Jewish organizers, IfNotNow is a grassroots movement to end American Jewish support for the occupation of Palestine. Meaghan Murphy, who helped table during the party, discussed IfNotNow’s mission and their participation in the Purim party.
Why was it important for IfNotNow and for yourself to be at this event?
“At the end of March is the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) [policy] conference in DC and hundreds, maybe thousands of young Jews are going out there to protest and voice our dissent for everything AIPAC does and represents. They claim to speak for all American Jews, but we know they don’t. They claim an alliance with the Trump administration and endless occupation in Israel Palestine will keep us safe. But we know that’s not true, not at all. On this event, Purim is such an odd holiday to explain to people but it has these really deep profound lessons in it. It centers women as resisters. It’s important to celebrate that in these different spaces, in secular spaces too. Part of the work of IfNotNow is re-imagining and re-creating new ways of celebrating Jewishness and practicing Judaism. So many of those ways have been destroyed, or we’ve destroyed them ourselves by perpetuating the idea that there are only certain ways of being Jewish. So if people can come together and tell the stories of Purim and resistance and perseverance and survival through hip hop and song and poetry? That’s cool.”
How did you feel during the event?
“It was nice to be there and talk to some of the older folks who had kind of heard of us, but didn’t know exactly what we’re about. In that way it was successful, I talked to a rabbi and some people who work in more institutional Jewish spaces and they seemed pretty down for the cause.”
YCA’s Purim Party brought together various performers to tell the story of Purim through the open mic that night. The opening act Yury, had the whole crowd entranced by his amazing beat boxing skills. He gave us the signal to boo Haman and guided us through the details of what makes this holiday so unique and important for the Jewish faith. Yury’s beat boxing and story telling made way for a great night of poetry and performance at YCA.