Oberlin Chabad Hosts Frat-Themed Purim

On Wednesday, Chabad at Oberlin held a celebration for Purim, a Jewish biblical holiday often involving masquerading in costumes, donating to the poor, and making hamantaschen cookies. The holiday is a celebration of the deliverance of the Jewish people, specifically when Esther saved the Jews from a genocide. 

“[Purim] commemorates when Queen Esther stood up to the evil powers who wanted to kill the Jewish people and ultimately saved the Jewish people for all of history,” said Purim host and Chabad Rabbi Shlomo Elkan. “Every year on the Jewish calendar, we commemorate the holiday with big celebrations.”

College third-year and Chabad board member Theo Canter explains that, despite its history, Purim is a joyous event. 

“Theoretically it’s a scary thing, but the fact that [we were] saved not only serves as a relief but as cause for celebration,” Canter said. “The idea is that the date is celebrated with costumes, standing on your head, eating, and drinking.”

The Chabad event consisted of a large feast, readings from the Book of Esther, and even a comedy sketch retelling the story of Purim written by a Chabad board member. One of the customs of the holiday is dressing up in costumes; this year’s theme at Oberlin’s Chabad house was “Fake Frat.” Rabbi Shlomo explained that while the religious holiday doesn’t require a theme, Chabad comes up with one every year to get people in the festive spirit. 

“Over all the years that Chabad has done a Purim party at Oberlin, we always have had a theme,” Rabbi Shlomo said. “A couple of years ago we did Roaring Twenties; we’ve done a Harry Potter theme, Purim in the tropics. Together with our student leadership team every year, we always think of a fun theme. This year, we leaned into the party culture a little bit ironically because Oberlin does not have a fraternity culture.”

Purim celebrations also include acts of charity. Rabbi Shlomo explains that this year, given the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine, the funds are being donated to aid Jewish Ukranians.

“This year in particular, because of everything going on in Ukraine, all of the funds that we’re collecting are going to help the Jewish community of Ukraine,” he said.

Canter also added that there is a plan to visit Jewish inmates at the Grafton Correctional Institution in Grafton, Ohio. 

“Some of us are going with Rabbi Shlomo to celebrate with Jewish inmates,” Canter said. “We’re gonna sing, dance, eat, and read with them.”

While Rabbi Shlomo underscored the importance of preserving a space for Jewish students, he also invites all students to join in learning about the holiday.

“The Jewish community at Oberlin is the primary audience,” Rabbi Shlomo said. “But of course anyone who wishes to join in learning is always welcome.”