Sunday, March 23, 2008

Combined Purim festival lights up T.Y. Park

Special to The Miami Herald

It was more than just a day at the park for Tzippi and Nick Wigoda.

The couple commemorated the Jewish holiday of Purim at a March 16 festival that attracted thousands of revelers to a mini-midway with carnival games and rides set up along a shady stretch at Topeekeegee Yugnee Park in Hollywood.

''We're all celebrating together, as one Jewish community,'' said Tzippi Wigoda as she watched her 2 ½-year-old daughter, Shoshana, rode on a kiddie train.

The couple, who also brought 8-month-old son Jake, were there to have fun and show support for their synagogue, Young Israel of Hollywood-Fort Lauderdale, Wigoda said.

The Orthodox congregation was one of six Hollywood temples that partnered with the Jewish Federation of Broward County to put on the event, aptly named Purim in the Park. Temple Sinai of Hollywood, Temple Solel, B'nai Sephardim, Hollywood Community Synagogue Chabad and Walnut Creek Chabad also participated.

Purim, marking how the ancient Jews of Persia were saved from death, is traditionally greeted with joyous activities. The recent celebration was the largest put on by organizers, with about 6,000 visitors.

Crowds noshed at two new food courts selling kosher hot dogs, knishes and lots of hamantaschen, a triangular fruit-filled pastry served during the holiday. Some 20 rides, compared to four last year, kept folks busy, too, said Avi Frier, co-chairman and founder of Purim in the Park.

The festival has been at T.Y. Park since its start in 2002. Due to lack of volunteers, there was no festival in 2005 and 2006, then it returned a year later when the federation got involved, Frier said.

In 2007, the event was renamed Jill Edison Purim in the Park in memory of Edison, a Hollywood resident who organized Temple Solel's Purim carnival for many years at T.Y. Park before it evolved into the existing community-wide event, said Jackie Reiner, festival co-chairwoman and a board member at Temple Solel.

Purim in the Park draws members from the six congregations representing Judaism's Orthodox, Conservative and Reform movements. It also brings in the unaffiliated and people from the community at large.

''Everyone's welcome,'' Reiner said.

In accordance with the Purim command of making gifts to charity, for the second year in a row the festival's proceeds supported the sponsoring synagogues and Southeast Focal Point Joseph Meyerhoff Senior Center.

The money will benefit programs at the center, which serves around 750 seniors a week at 3081 Taft St. in Hollywood, said Frieda Caldes, the facility's director.

''It's wonderful for people to come together and give back to the elderly in their community,'' Caldes said. ``We're thrilled and ever so grateful.''

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