With an old marketplace around the corner from the Chabad House and a regular scene of locals dressed in outfits right out of the ‘stories of Tzadikim’ books, the Shluchim in Sumy, Ukraine weren’t quite sure how a Purim party themed “in the Shtetl” would actually play out.
As the local economy continues to collapse and many people are experiencing difficulties, Rabbi Yechiel Shlomo and Rochi Levitansky wanted to bring an upbeat atmosphere to the Purim party. The crowd completely connected to the theme – it hit their Pintile Yid – so close to home, unearthing the feelings of Yiddishkeit covered by years of communism. In Sumy there has never been such a successful Purim party as this. The Yiddishe Shtetel brought out nostalgia in the crowd.
As soon as the people entered the building, they were welcomed by the ‘well,’ where they washed for Hamotzi. As they made their way upstairs, a display of pictures depicting life among the Yidden in the Shtetl, began creating the mood. At the door, all participants were swept into the Shtetel with costume: men were given a Yarmulka with long Peyos sewn on and Women an old fashioned hat. Then they exchanged Shalach Monos in burlap bags and gave Tzedakah in used pickle jars for Matonos Loevyonim.
The room was decorated by the staff of the Or Avner Preschool including: bales of hay and old antiques as the stage where the Megillah was read, a horse drawn wagon filled with challah rolls as center pieces and washing line hanging from the ceiling. The choleptches, bobby’s chicken soup and apple strudel all created a varme Heimishe feeling. The exquisite paintings of a Shtetel along the length of the walls were painted by the Shluchim’s children and the Israeli Shluchos from Bais Rivkah.
People brought pictures of their grandparents and came forward to speak about their loved ones throughout the program. The Klezmer band from Konotop played inspiring Ukrainian and Yiddish songs about life in the shtetel bringing tears and laughter to all. The entertainer captivated the crowd with his jokes and games. Each game had to do with a Shtetel profession – the bakers had fresh challah dough to make the most creative challah, the shoemakers had to make the most shoes, measuring everyone’s feet and cutting out their foot print, painters were blindfolded and made hilarious pictures of haman and musicians had to guess the playing song.
The highlight of the event was the beautiful Purim Shpiel by the Or Avner Preschool and the “kazatzka” the Rabbi and his little sons performed for the crowd spontaneously as the niggun hop kozzak was played.
The joy was so real that people, who don’t usually join in community functions, didn’t want to leave! The evening was followed by a huge Farbrengen initiated by the members of Keren Meromim Kolel Torah which made a huge impact on commitments to Torah and Mitzvos. Some took action immediately: two people asked for a Mezuza to be put up in their homes, and three more joined the daily kolel beginning the very next day!