Miracles don’t always have to be grandiose. Often times, if we look at our lives closely, miracles are evident even in something seemingly mundane. This past Sunday, March 1, at the Chabad House at Rutgers, we witnessed an example of this type of phenomenon. Jewish volunteers held a Pre-Purim Party for adults with special needs. Guests were invited to enjoy a free party in preparation for Purim, which included activities and storytelling, Hamentashen baking, and live guitar music. However, unknown to most, hosting this event had a deeper meaning for participants and their families. It was something very special beyond this week’s meeting.
Most of the participants could recall a time when Chabad had held similar events in recent years for adults with special needs. These events were more regular, and the same group of families would always be eager to participate in Jewish culture. Unfortunately, with arising complications, over the course of time the frequency of these events decayed. Now, these same participants, who remembered the festivities from before, had once again assembled to enjoy a preparation for the upcoming Purim holiday. Many of the parents and children had known each other as well, and were very ecstatic to come together once again. It was a great reunion.
What more, the Pre-Purim party was held against unlikely chances. That Sunday an unexpected snowstorm had brought ice and wind to the roads of Rutgers campus. It seemed unlikely that the party could take place that morning. Yet, in spite of the awful weather, almost everyone invited still arrived to enjoy the activities. “It’s a real blessing,” Rabbi Goodman had commented with a smile. The volunteers were also encouraged to see a high level of attendance.
The success of the party definitely made the uneasy journey worthwhile. First, an interactive storybook version of Purim was read aloud. The guests could participate by answering incorporated questions. The excitement and happiness in the room were both very clear. Next came the Hamentashen baking. After a quick demonstration, guests not only could create the traditional triangular treat, but were also able to use an assortment of cookie cutters in the shape of various Purim symbols. The session concluded with holiday guitar music at the courtesy of Jacob Holdowsky, who also plays at the local Robert Wood Johnson Hospital for Specialized Children, regularly. Upon leaving, guests were given a bag full of the Hamentashen they had made to take home for the Purim holiday.
Looking forward, the Chabad House at Rutgers hopes to continue these Jewish themed programs available to the special needs community. Passover is not far away, and Chabad hopes to give this specialized community a way to access and sustain their Jewish culture and heritage. The satisfied feedback from the participating families attests to the appreciation for having a revival of such gatherings.
Although the day of the Pre-Purim party presented undesirable weather and many doubts, it was clear that even against the odds all had worked out for the best. As mentioned earlier, miracles can take place on scales that impact entire nations, or they can also take place right in our own backyards. Being able to host members of the local Jewish community in a time of uncertainty was in itself a great blessing. Chabad hopes that through the support of valued sponsors and dedicated student volunteers, many more events will be planned to serve its diverse community at Rutgers University and Central New Jersey.
For sponsorship opportunities or information about Chabad House at Rutgers programs, dormitory and kosher dining, please call (732) 296-1800 or visit their website at http://www.ChabadNJ.org.