Every year on (or near) the Jewish holiday of Purim, we deliver mishloach manot, bags of sweet gifts, to our elected officials, along with a reminder of our legislative priorities.
See below for Rachel Franklin‘s remarks about participating in JUFJ’s Purim Action in Baltimore City in 2023.
The Jewish holiday of Purim honors Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai, who cleverly orchestrated the downfall of a villain bent on slaughtering all the Jews in the kingdom. Queen Esther showed her bravery not by leading an army, but by cleverly asking those in power to confront oppression. Using a similar strategy, JUFJers donned their silliest costumes (a Purim tradition) to advocate for campaigns for social, racial, and economic justice to legislators in Annapolis, Baltimore City, and Montgomery County.
When I heard about JUFJ’s Purim Action, I thought it was a beautiful way to honor the holiday. Every year, Bolton Street Synagogue, where I belong, hosts a hamantaschen bake for young professionals. I worked with my synagogue to turn this tradition into a way to help with supplies for JUFJ’s Purim Action. We made a huge batch of hamantaschen, tray after tray coming out of the oven golden, oozing jelly, chocolate, and/or Nutella. The results were rigorously taste-tested to make sure they were worthy. Everyone got to take home as many cookies as they wanted, but most people were there to bake, not eat, and we had plenty left over for mishloach manot, bags of sweet gifts, to deliver to elected officials (along with a reminder of our legislative priorities). Additionally, a class at our religious school helped decorate the bags, along with other Jewish students throughout the area!
I learned more about Baltimore City politics in a few hours than in the previous three years I’ve lived here. And I learned that Mayor Brandon Scott throws down at Purim parties!
I joined the JUFJ group in front of Baltimore City Hall in my always appropriate pink squid hat. We gathered to introduce ourselves and admire each other’s costumes. Then we went over our issues: strengthening renters’ safety, restoring local control of our police force to our elected representatives, increasing investment in Black and brown communities instead of policing, and preventing low-income Baltimoreans from being illegally taxed on their water bill subsidies. I appreciated the chance to ask detailed questions about what we were advocating for beforehand. I read local political news, but this was much more in-depth.
Inside City Hall, JUFJ organizers kept track of our appointments and guided us to the City Councilmembers’ offices. To be honest, I was expecting a joyous parade of squids, woodland creatures, clowns, rainbow fans, and sweets, with the advocacy work snuck in. Instead, though the legislators were happy to see us blowing bubbles and delivering colorful treat bags to them and their staff, they were even more excited to discuss our causes.
Everyone had already heard about JUFJ, and many knew the organizers personally. They told us their concerns regarding specific bills, whether they thought certain measures would pass, and what goals they would focus on next. I learned more about Baltimore City politics in a few hours than in the previous three years I’ve lived here. And I learned that Mayor Brandon Scott throws down at Purim parties!
I love celebrating Purim by listening to the Megillah (the Book of Esther) or laughing and booing at a spiel. But JUFJ’s Purim Action helped me connect to the holiday in a completely new way. It reminded me that lifting our voices as a community can help build a better world, whether it be in Shushan (the capital of Queen Esther’s kingdom) or in our very own Baltimore.