At NoVa synagogue, Purim treats are handled by committee

Members of Congregation Olam Tikvah fill mishloach manot bags before Purim 2019.
Photo by Dan Noble

It’s a Purim tradition to send treats to friends and neighbors, a mitzvah called mishloach manot.

At Congregation Olam Tikvah in Fairfax, the tradition is for members to choose who’d they’d like to send the goodies to, and then let the committee take over.

“It’s really part of our Purim celebration,” says Erin Dreyfuss, the synagogue’s program coordinator. “Each person gets one bag with different treats in it, various snacks. There’s always hamantashen, and we also send a feather for Passover prep.” (Feathers are used symbolically to remove crumbs and other leaven before Passover.)

Every Olam Tikvah member receives a list of congregants. All they have to do is check the names of people they want to receive those treats, and the volunteer committee takes care of the rest. Purim begins at sunset on March 9.

About a third of the Conservative congregation’s 630 families participate, Dreyfuss says.

Her committee members shop for the snacks, choose the bag to hold the snacks and stuff the bags, says Dreyfuss. Then they hand deliver them to congregants.

“It’s time intensive,” she says. “We look at it as a really positive step in our community and something we are so thrilled to be able to maintain every year, because it is a lot of work,” Dreyfuss adds.

Recipients get a list of names of those who sent the treats. Senders sometimes include a message. It’s $18 to send the first bag and $2 for each additional bag.

Olam Tikvah member Judith Cabelli says this is her third year sending and receiving mishloach manot.

“It feels really nice to receive it. My kids and husband and I read all of the names and it’s very meaningful to see all of that,” she says.

She likes to support the synagogue while completing one of Purim’s four mitzvot — the others are hearing the megillah, a festive meal and giving to the poor.

“It is a wonderful way to simultaneously make a donation to the congregation and send the traditional mishloach manot to other congregants,” Cabelli says. “I love that element.”

She adds, “We do send it to pretty much everyone that we have a relationship with in the congregation. Every so often there’ve been names that I haven’t known, and it’s a wonderful to continue to build up relationships with other congregants.”

Members can also check off a reciprocity option. That way, the synagogue sends out a bag to everyone who sends them mishloach manot. Cabelli takes advantage of that option.

“It’s a nice way to make sure that I haven’t made a mistake when going through the list and not clicked on a name.”

The program isn’t limited to Olam Tikvah. Dreyfuss says that for $18 each, the committee will send bags of Purim treats to people outside the community.

“There’s a good number of people that do,” she says. “Some people have friends in other synagogues, or neighbors in their community that they want to say, ‘Here’s what Purim is about.”

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