Deliverance From Wastefulness: Synagogue Uses Purim to Teach Children the Virtues Of Recycling

March 9, 2009

Author: Catherine Jun

Source: The Detroit News

For weeks, Jonah and Riley Stearns have scoured their home -- and their lunch boxes -- for recyclables: empty Capri Sun juice pouches, egg cartons and cardboard rolls from toilet paper.

And each Sunday, the 7-year-old twins toted them in bags to Hebrew school at The Shul, a Chabad-Lubavitch synagogue in West Bloomfield, which is going "green" for this year's Purim holiday.

"Now they're noticing and paying attention," said Lisa Stearns, mother of the twins. "They're thinking twice about putting things in the trash."

The Jewish holiday of Purim, which falls on Tuesday this year, celebrates the story of the Book of Esther, in which Jews in Persia were saved from death. On this holiday, children dress-up in costumes and families head to synagogues to hear the often raucous retelling of the story.

"Purim is a joyous holiday and we figure we'll use this opportunity to raise awareness," said Itty Shemtov, director of education and programming at The Shul.

So the synagogue has in recent weeks adopted the slogan, "recycle, reuse and rejoice." On Sunday, children made costumes out of brown paper bags. Teachers have run recycling campaigns in their classrooms to teach about the ills of wastefulness. At Tuesday's "Green Purim" celebration, children will turn these items into "groggers" -- noisemakers traditionally rattled during the story telling each time the name of the story's villain, Haman, is said.

The celebration will feature a green fair with a nutritionist and vendors of all-natural products. A representative from the Jewish National Fund, a charity organization most known for planting trees in Israel, will also be on hand.