Grab your groggers, Purim is here and megilla reading is on!
A brief list of synagogues in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem that welcome visitors, speak some English, and generally promise a fun, loud, even hip holiday night out.
Your kids have on their homemade astronaut and fairy princess costumes, the groggers have been located at the back of the tablecloths drawer, and you have sealed up your Mishlochai Manot so you stop pilfering the poppy seed hamentashens.
Now, the only question is, where do you go this Purim to hear the megilla reading?
What follows is a very partial, and somewhat arbitrary, list of synagogues in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem that welcome visitors, speak some English, and generally promise a fun, loud, even hip holiday night out.
Note that Jerusalem, in line with the tradition left over from those long gone days when it was a walled city, begins its celebrations a day later than the rest of the country, on Thursday evening. Tel Aviv, and anywhere else, gets going Wednesday night at sundown.
Festivities at the flagship reform congregation in the city, located on B’nai Dan 62, begin 6pm Wednesday with a Purim carnival for kids and move on, at 7pm, to a first reading of the book of Esther, for families, which will be accompanied by a Klezmer band. At 8:30pm there will be another, more traditional reading, followed by a party with snacks and drinks so that everyone can fulfill that popular Purim tradition of getting drunk.
Havurat Tel Aviv
The city’s main Masorti congregation, famous for its Friday night community pot luck dinners, starts celebrations at 7pm Wednesday with activities for children, including making groggers and putting together Mishlochai Manot.
The reading of the megilla starts at 7:30 and will be followed by a Purim Spiel.
While many, if not a majority, of the members of the community are English speakers, the activities, as well as the play, will be in Hebrew. The congregation, which meets in the historic Gymnasia Herzliya high school on Jabotnsky 106, is asking for a 10-50 shekel donation from visitors.
A progressive, inclusive, gay friendly, Modern Orthodox congregation, beloved by young families with lots of children, will feature, like almost all of the other synagogues listed here, women reading the megilla alongside the men, another Purim tradition.
The evening here starts at 6:15 with Maariv, and moves on to a 6:30 megilla reading. At 7:30 the members of the congregation will together leave for the geriatric department at nearby Ichilov Hospital to distribute Mishlochai Manot.
The congregation, which meets at the Zeitlin High School on 20 Rehov Zeitlin (entrance on Rehov Leonardo da Vinci) will gather again on Thursday morning at 8am for another Megilla reading.
Ichud Olam minyan
Another popular Modern Orthodox congregation, especially for singles, located in the Ichud Shivat Zion building on Ben Yehuda 86, the corner of Smolenskin. The congregation attracts a lot of Europeans alongside native Israelis, and has an average age of 30. Megilla reading takes place Wednesday at 6:30 pm and Thursday at 8am, with an additional reading only for women at 10am.
Modern Orthodox Tel Aviv International Synagogue
This congregation led by a rabbi who hails from the Hamptons, holds bilingual English-Hebrew services. Purim starts here on Wednesday at 6 pm with a circus performance and a circus workshop for adults, which is being billed as the “Circ de Synagogue.” On Thursday at 7am they will have another megilla reading. Frishman 23
This progressive reform congregation features not only the regular megilla reading, at 5:30 pm Thursday for families, and again at 7 pm at their synagogue on Rechov Asher 1, but, also offers a “Purim demonstration” where you can hear the megilla read, and protest against orthodox religious discrimination against women at the very same time. This two-for-one event takes place on Wednesday 6 pm in Kikar Zion, where costumed participants will be handed MP3 players with women’s singing on them, to be sounded instead of groggers.
The ever popular modern orthodox congregation that aims to bring together Jews from different backgrounds and orientations starts its Purim events at 6 pm Thursday. 10 Halamed-Hey St.
The orthodox, feminist, mutigenerational congregation Shira Chadasha is located in the ICCC at 12 Emek Refaim, has two megilla readings Thursday, both at 6:30pm: One for children and families, and the other for everyone and anyone else.
Small minyan at Hartman Institute’s Tauber Hall
Another option is a small, low key modern orthodox minyan, run by a brother and sister duo that will hold its megilla reading Thursday at 7:30 pm in the Hartman Institute’s Tauber Hall, on 11 Gedalyahu Alon Street. The congregation here is mostly in their 20s and everyone is asked to bring their own megillas from home.
Or how about trying Ohel Nechama, another popular and young modern Orthodox congregation that meets on Chopin Street 3, and has services Thursday beginning at 6 pm for Maariv and immediately followed by the megilla reading.
View Purim in Jerusalem in a larger map
Elsewhere in Israel
If you find yourself in Rosh Hanikra or Eilat or somewhere in between and want a more alternative Purim venue than your hotel lobby - no worries; Tzohar, an organization that brings together secular and religious Jews to pray together on holidays has set up approximately 250 ad hoc minyans around the country - in kibbutzim, moshavim and town community centers - where you can drop in to hear the megilla read. The services, as well as activities are all in Hebrew. For more information on where to find a service near you, contact them via their webpage: http://www.tzohar.org.il/en_tzohar.pdf or look at their interactive map on Facebook.