Congregation Beth Shalom welcomes specials needs students to carnival
Jacob Dayan (left) and Oren Efergan, both eighth graders at Solomon Schecter Day School, wait for the start of the Purim parade at the school February 22, 2013. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
NORTHBROOK — In her red hat, Alma Perlish, a Skokie resident of 30 plus years, looked the Grande Dame part in the spirit of the famed Red Hat Society.
But Perlish, a Northbrook Congregation Beth Shalom (second grade) Sunday School teacher, preferred to defer center-of-attention-status to children who came in costume to celebrate Purim.
Today’s lesson couldn’t be better.
Can you say Walters Avenue Purim Carnival midway? Eye candy in the form of real deal lollipops gracing another hat, a crown, no less, just yards from where Perlish stood like a lady-in-waiting, attending to the carnival game she supervised.
Grins came easily at 10:30 a.m. when the Purim Carnival and Service for Families with Special Needs began one hour before the open-to-all carnival.
“It’s wonderful to see our community come together,” said Shari Kaminsky of Northbrook, using red crepe paper streamers to suggest the red stripes of a popcorn container.
“It’s a day that inspires families to get together, especially at Purim which celebrates the strength of our people,” said Kaminsky’s tag teammate Brittany Cohen, a kindergarten Sunday School teacher who lives in Deerfield.
About 400 people came to the Purim Carnival.
“It’s one of the happiest days on the Jewish calendar,” said Cantor Steven Stoehr, who wore a hat trimmed in lime and orange nappy fun fur.
Stoehr is the founder of H.U.G.S.@CBS initiative (which stands for Healthy Understanding and Growing Space at Congregation Beth Shalom).
The Special Needs Carnival and Service, which welcomed a turnout of 60 people, reflects the H.U.G.S@CBS mission.
“The idea is that the doors of our synagogue and of our communities should always be open to people with special needs, or people of all different faiths, all different creeds, of course.
“And this holiday (Purim) in particular is one of such joy and happiness that it really applies to everybody,” said Stoehr.
Philly Baer, 8, a Willowbrook School third grader, was accompanied by his father Eric, a Northbrook resident of 13 years.
Philly’s twin sister Hallie, a Wescott School third grader, helped her brother with a ball toss game.
“It’s nice to see the synagogue do something to include children with special needs like Philly,” said Eric Baer, a CBS member.
Students at Solomon Schecter School in Northbrook also celebrated Purim on Friday, with costume parades, holiday lessons and more. Part of that student body attends Congregation Beth Shalom.
The Baer family attended the CBS service which included children’s choir songs.
Lyrics were accompanied by the sounds of graggers, handheld plastic noisemakers in neon colors.
During the service, Stoehr and Cantor Farid Dardashti unrolled the Megillah Esther, a scroll chronicling Purim.
“The historical story of Purim took place in ancient Persia, which is today Iran,” said Stoehr.
“It was the story of a villain named Haman and how he tried to convince the king…to kill the Jewish people.”
Nobility (named Esther) spoke up as a champion.
And today, something as joyful as a red party hat symbolizes uncapped fellowship.
“Somebody once said, much wiser than I of course,” mused Stoehr, “when he asked about the strange people in the room, he said, ‘They aren’t strangers, they’re just friends I’ve yet to meet.’
“If we take the opportunity to extend our hand to walk across the room, to greet somebody who’s unfamiliar to us, more often than not we find out that we have enough in common to become friends and close acquaintances.”
View Karie Angell Luc’s interview with Cantor Stoehr at www.northbrook.suntimes.com.
Also visit www.bethshalomnb.org.