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Purim Advocacy

Purim Advocacy

As the Megillah says, Esther was also known by the name of Hadassah. Of all the female biblical heroines, Esther stands out as the example of a great Jewish woman advocate.

Here’s a brief overview of the story of Purim: During the fifth century BCE, in city of Shushan, Vashti, the Queen of Persia, refuses to obey the order of the King of Persia, Ahashverosh, to appear before his guests. The King then searches the country for a new queen. From among hundreds of applicants, Esther, niece of Mordecai the Jew, is chosen.

The King's Prime Minister was an evil man named Haman. Haman, a descendant of the tribe of Amalek, hates the Jews and decides to kill them. He convinces King Ahashverosh to issue an edict ordering the destruction of all Jews in the land.

Mordecai pleads with Esther to save the Jewish people by talking to the King. At the risk of her own life, Esther appears before the King without being summoned by him, not once but twice. During her second visit, she reveals her own Jewish identity to the King and Haman's evil plans.

The King is outraged at Haman, and decrees that Haman be the victim of his own infamous plot. Haman and his sons are killed, and the Jews are saved.

Advocacy in Action

In Text #1 (Esther 3:8), Haman proposes his evil plot to destroy the Jews to King Ahashverosh:
“There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the other peoples in all of the provinces of your realm. Their laws are different from those of any other peoples and they do not obey the king’s laws; therefore it is not in your majesty’s interest to tolerate them.”

Questions for Further Study and Reflection:

  1. Today, the Jewish community and Jewish people in political power in the U.S. are sometimes accused of so vigorously defending Israel, that they compromise America’s best interests. To what extent do you see a parallel between Haman’s accusations and these modern day assertions that pro-Israel advocates do not have America’s best interests at heart?
  2. How do we, as pro-Israel advocates, respond to these assertions? Why is lobbying for Israel in our best interest?
  3. Where else have we seen these accusations historically?

In Text #2: (Esther 4:12-14) Mordecai tries to convince Esther to go to the King and ask him to save the Jewish people. Mordecai says:
“Do not imagine that you of all Jews will escape with your life by being in the King’s palace. On the contrary, if you keep silent in this crisis, relief and deliverance will come to Jews from another place, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows, perhaps you have attained your royal position for just such a crisis.”

Questions for Further Study and Reflection:

  1. Mordecai warns Esther about the danger of keeping silent in the face of crises facing the Jewish community. What political and social crises do you believe the Jewish community faces today?
  2. What do you think the consequences are, or have been, of remaining silent in the face of these crises?
  3. What kind of processes do we as advocates need to put in place in order to be in the best position to go to our elected officials with an urgent request?
  4. What do we need to do to actively participate in the political process?
  5. At first, Esther was very reluctant because she had not been invited into the King’s inner court. Mordecai ultimately prevails on Esther that she is the right person at the right time to go to the King. Many of us today often feel reluctant to get involved in political advocacy. We think that we are not up to the task for all kinds of reasons, i.e., lack of experience, lack of time, etc. But why are we, as individuals and as a group, the right people at the right time to make our voices heard?

On Purim, we celebrate Queen Esther and her courageous and powerful actions on behalf of her Jewish community. Through Hadassah’s Advocacy programs, you can strengthen your own Jewish identity and help others by actively supporting issues that matter to you and the Jewish community. From hate crimes to anti-Semitism; reproductive choice to environmental conservation; Middle East peace to Israeli security—Hadassah advocates for issues that matter to the Jewish people. To learn more, visit www.hadassah.org/advocacy.

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