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“I am looking for a ROYAL PARTNER!”

Purim - shawnToday’s post is by R. Shira Koch Epstein
“I am looking for a ROYAL PARTNER!”

With these words, Storahtelling Lab/Shul Maven and LABA Teaching Artist Shawn Shafner, as King Ahashverosh, drew      my children, along with scores of young children pulling their grown-ups along, to engage in the Purim story last Sunday morning in the bright lobby lounge of the 14th Street Y. He also seemed to catch the eye of Lab/Shul educator Jess-Ann Smith, aka, Queen Esther–who shared her snacks and her wisdom with the king, proving that a winning partner is one who was unselfish, kind, wise, and brave. 

For a peek at the fun, click here!purim - jessann and shawn

“And I am looking for a more permanent position as the King’s jester, so please laugh at my jokes,” stage-whispered a Leprechaun-green creature with glitter-dusted cheeks, a blue wig, and eyes that seemed to sparkle a lot like those of  Lab/Shul’s incomparable Naomi Less.

In the corner, 14th Street Y Senior Program Director Shayna Kreisler was quickly motivating staff and volunteers to change over our mask-and-gragger-making tables to be filled with treats to make “Goody-Foodie-Bags.” All were invited to make one for family or friends, and another to deliver to patients and staff at Beth Israel Hospital who might not be able to celebrate Purim– fulfilling the mitzvot of “misloach manot,” sending gifts of food to people in need of some love.  My son’s favorite part of the morning was walking to the hospital and meeting with Chaplain Rabbi Sheldon Goldsmith, who explained that he helped patients, both Jewish and non-Jewish, to heal their souls while the doctors and nurses heal their bodies.

purim - spaceman purim - bakerPartnership, levity, good works inspired by Jewish narrative, and relationship-building were all apparent as we brought together a diverse community in celebration of this Jewish holiday.  As a mom, I was delighted to see my family having fun with the friends we have made participating in Shabbat at Lab/Shul. As the new Executive Director of the 14th Street Y, I couldn’t have been happier to see Lab/Shul and Y community members and staff working to bring Lab/Shul regulars, Y members, and new friends together–some who sought out a Purim party, and others who had never heard of Purim but wanted to join in the fun.

In my first few weeks at the 14th Street Y, I have come to understand how this community center can work with our partners, like Lab/Shul. Together we can attract and create a diverse community of people who build relationships and seek meaning through engagement with Jewish celebration, stories, ideas, and values-inspired action.

 purim - shaking homemade groggersThere is a history of partnership between the 14th Street Y and the creators of Lab/Shul that long precedes my arrival on the scene. I look forward to continuing to build together and hopefully to extend that reach to include many other organizations and groups who are working to revitalize Jewish life downtown. (SPOILER: Stay tuned—we have great plans in store for Shavuot!)

It is through partnerships that are unselfish, brave, kind and wise that we will continue to build a vital, meaningful, and diverse community filled with levity, good works, and culture inspired by Jewish narrative and tradition.purim - kangaroo