March 4, 2012
By Simone Weichselbaum
New York Jews getting ready for Purim skipped the costume parties Sunday to focus on giving back.
Doing extra charity is a must during the two-day celebration that begins Wednesday night and honors Queen Esther for saving the ancient Persian Jews from slaughter.
World War II vet Jerome Richard, 95, wanted the preschool in his Manhattan neighborhood to have its own Torah, so he shelled out more than $50,000 buying a three-foot handmade scroll.
“The story of Purim is about someone trying to annihilate the Jewish people,” said Rabbi Shmuel Metzger, head of Chabad Lubavitch At Beekman synagogue and preschool on E. 53rd Street in midtown.
“So this gift from this 95-year-old veteran is a gift for our future,” Metzger said, leading a mini parade down 2nd Avenue as throngs of kids and parents trailed behind.
Richard, an army combat photographer during World War II and a still spry director of investments for Oppenheimer & Co, said giving charity to children is a responsibility that every adult should adopt.
“I work on Wall Street and I make sure that I give all my money to children,” said Richard.
Helping the hungry was the focus inside a cramped kitchen on Coney Island Avenue in Flatbush, Brooklyn, where a hundred Yeshiva University students lined up chopping carrots and cabbages.
The veggies will go into 500 holiday meals for Masbia, a chain of kosher soup kitchens in Brooklyn and Queens. Masbia is also making “Purim Packages” for cash-strapped parents made up of food, diapers, and toys.
“On the surface, Purim is about parties, costumes, and people running around,” said Masbia director Alexander Rapaport. “But you have to help the needy. So people can make their own Purim at home.”
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