On March 8, Jews around the world celebrated the holiday of Purim, made famous in the Book of Esther, which tells the story of the Jews of ancient Persia overcoming a murderous plot by Haman. White House and Agency staffers from all faiths and backgrounds gathered in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to celebrate the holiday. In partnership with Rabbi Levi Shemtov of the American Friends of Lubavitch, staffers were led in a reading of the Megillah by Rabbi Shua Hecht.
Those in attendance, including White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew, received red, white, and blue groggers (noisemakers), and ate hamentashchen, the traditional three cornered pastry enjoyed as part of the celebration of Purim. Staffers also participated in the practice of giving mishloah manot, or packages of food and other treats sent to friends, relatives and coworkers as part of the holiday.
While only a small part of the day, celebrating Purim with a Megillah reading is just one of the many steps President Obama has undertaken to make the White House the “People’s House” that is open to people of all backgrounds and faiths.
Jarrod Bernstein is the Director of Jewish Outreach in the Office of Public Engagement.