With every Jewish holiday, our early childhood centers aim to impart the children with a love and joy for Jewish tradition, through the values, experiences, and rituals of each holiday. Our teachers delve deep into the stories to find meaning and lifelong lessons that resonate with the children. As Purim was approaching, one four-year-olds’ classroom shared what they remembered of the story from years past. As the children pieced together their individual thoughts and details, it became apparent that what interested them most were the characters from the story. More than simply their names and status (a king, a queen, a bad guy, etc.), the children recalled who these characters were as people—their personality traits, how they felt, what they cared about, and the choices they made.
For a holiday that, as children and as adults, we most often associate with dressing up in costumes and celebrating with music, masks, and noisemakers, one might be astounded at the level and depth of conversation that ensued. The students broached topics of right and wrong, and several even identified King Ahasuerus’s development throughout the course of the story, explaining that, “he changed.” One child helped articulate these changes noticed by himself and his classmates, stating: “The king at the beginning was making bad choices, but then he learned and grew up and did the right thing.” Another child added, “He had to listen to Esther so he could make the right choice.” A classmate concluded, “He was better because he learned from when Esther was brave.”
In addition to these conversations, the children took part in the traditions of Purim in fun and festive ways: They came to school in costumes, and each classroom created its own carnival booth, such as grogger-making, castle-building, and beanbag toss. The ECC Parent Association delivered delicious hamantaschen and helped make the holiday joyous and memorable.