Chabad Lubavitch of Northern Virginia Spreads the Purim Holiday Spirit Through Its Mishloach Manot Project

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IDF soldiers holding mishloach manot packages from Chabad Lubavitch of Northern Virginia. Courtesy of Chabad Lubavitch of Northern Virginia

A unique fundraiser at Chabad Lubavitch of Northern Virginia has decades worth of connections to Jewish families across the country, and now its efforts have expanded overseas to soldiers in Israel, bringing more people into the Purim holiday spirit and tightening family bonds.

The Fairfax synagogue sells mishloach manot baskets for Purim that contain custom-made items that people can send to their friends and family, and it began as a tradition over 30 years ago when Rabbi Sholom Deitsch and his wife moved to the area.

Deitsch said that his wife is very artistically gifted and was asked by local people to make four Purim baskets, which were well received especially given her talents, and the program grew from year to year afterwards.

“From year to year, she put in more effort and more ability, by size and by volume, to be able to do different things,” Deitsch said.

It’s expanded to the point where it’s a countrywide operation, with Deitsch saying that they send out about 10,000 of these items a year, with the proceeds making up a sizable portion of the synagogue’s annual funding.

The operation now involves a team of people who bring in items from out of the country and get food from kosher restaurants for the mishloach manot baskets, which can go to relatives across the United States or to people ordering them for themselves.

“What we have found is that around the greater DMV area, people want to support it. They want to purchase something to send to their family or friends wherever they may be, and maybe there is more of the input of, I want to do it to support one of our local organizations,” Deitsch said.

But a recent expansion of their efforts has allowed for these baskets to spread the spirit of Purim to soldiers overseas by enabling people to send baskets to soldiers to help celebrate the holiday during these challenging times.

Giving baskets to Israeli soldiers is something Deitsch said the synagogue has been a part of for around 20 years, but they’ve stepped up their work in that area this year after Oct. 7 and the Israel-Hamas war that followed.

“Everybody is of course feeling closer to the Israeli soldiers and have been trying to support them. And we’ve been doing this for literally over 20 years, and we have our whole infrastructure of organizations that are catering to the soldiers and bringing them holiday gifts,” Deitsch said.

He added that one of the ways people sometimes choose to honor their friends or family for Purim through this program is by having baskets purchased in the name of the person for the soldiers, and that’s been popular this year.

Deitsch said that the baskets also provide a sense of community that’s important in today’s world and helps create the unity and resilience that are crucial to the Jewish community.
He recalled a story from the relief efforts in Houston after Hurricane Harvey, when synagogue members went to help people dealing with destroyed homes and significant loss.

Deitsch said that they went into the home of a Jewish person to help with cleanup and saw some items from their baskets on a shelf, and it demonstrated the connectedness of the community and the reach of Purim gifts.

He says it’s always important to remember that sense of connection and unity, which is made even more important during a crucial time for the Jewish community and the state of Israel during this year’s Purim celebrations.

“Obviously during wartime, we cling together, and we want to support each other. But that concept of unity is always important. And we have to remember that we’re one family and it’s almost like the rabbinic wisdom of instituting the sending of gifts of food to your friends was focused on that to create those bonds,” Deitsch said.

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