Feet stampede the floor going round and round the Megillah, as Rabbi Backman and his Chabad entourage lead sweaty men in dance. Fifteen, maybe 20 students all clad in basketball jerseys follow the rabbi, a short yet giant community figure, around the makeshift bimah. Watching the circle of men stamp in delirious simcha (happiness), I can remember feeling sorry for the inhabitants of the apartment below us. This is Purim night on the University of Maryland, College Park inside a raging off-campus apartment. This is Rabbi Backman at approximately midnight, and it is far from his last Megillah reading of the evening. Huge bellowed “boos” and a racket of rattles erupts when the name Haman (Purim’s villain) is read.
“It’s like we are at a Terps’ basketball game and the other team has scored and we fill the air with noise to irritate our competition.” This is how Eliana Block, a senior, multi-platform journalism major from Chicago, explains her experience with Chabad Purim.
Purim at the University of Maryland is fun all around. Leading up to Purim, we send small Purim packages to students around campus with hamentashen and information on Purim events. They always bring a smile to the students as they receive their special packages.
Chabad is there to help students celebrate the day, and with mitzvos. One of our main goals is to help as many people as possible listen to the megillah. To achieve that, we have countless megillah readings throughout the night and day. We make it hard for someone not to hear it. We go to numerous sororities and fraternities, where we read the megillah, make lots of noise, and eat some hamentashen. We go to dorms and apartments. We bring the mitzva to you. We also have megillah readings at Chabad on the hour. So, no matter what your schedule is, you can make sure to listen to the megillah at some point.
Having one megillah reader is obviously not enough, so we bring in others who also know how to read. You might see them wearing weird costumes, running around campus. We like to do things in the Purim spirit.
In the evening, we have our seudah (meal). It always consists of delicious food, good company, and all the craziness of Purim you can imagine.
We also make it possible to fulfill the other commandments of the day. We give out mishloach manot (baskets of food) and we receive lots in return. We also help with matanot l’evyonim (gifts to the poor).
We try to add to the fun. And believe me, there’s lots of fun in this place on Purim.
Chaiky Backman is in 11th grade and enjoys writing, reading, and volunteering.