‘Phenomenal’ donations for Purim: £1m may have changed hands in Stamford Hill

The festival of Purim on the streets of Stamford Hill

The festival of Purim on the streets of Stamford Hill - Credit: Archant

An Orthodox Jewish community leader believes as much as a million pounds was handed over to charity in Stamford Hill on Thursday as young and old came out on the streets to mark the end of Purim.

The festival of Purim on the streets of Stamford Hill

The festival of Purim on the streets of Stamford Hill - Credit: Archant

The annual festival celebrates the foiling of an attempt by an ancient Persian King to wipe out the Jewish population 2,500 years ago as recorded in the Book of Esther.

It is celebrated by Jewish communities around the world with parades, loud music, gifts and fancy dress.

Rabbi Abraham Pinter told the Gazette: “It’s a happy day because everybody believed they would be totally obliterated in one day and that day became a day to rejoice.

“Dressing up is not a religious requirement, but giving money to the poor – although one is supposed to do this all the time – is a commandment on the Purim.

“Phenomenal sums of money are given to charities in Stamford hill on that day.

“I would expect as much as a million pounds could be donated in a place like Stamford Hill, if there are 5,000 families.

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“Those who can afford will give more. I’m a person of modest means – I just probably distributed about £500 myself and I’m an average guy. There are some very, very rich people who probably distributed 50 times that.”

Rabbi Pinter explained the background to the festival: “The king at the time had a huge empire which covered 127 provinces, and one of his advisors, Haman, said: ‘You have people here who are different from everyone else. They have different customs. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful idea if we can annihilate them on one day?’

But the plot was apparently foiled thanks to Esther, the King’s Jewish wife, who used subterfuge to befriend the King’s wicked advisor Haman.

“People in the Jewish community saw Esther was befriending Haman, and they had given up complete hope but they weren’t aware this was her way to trap him,” said Rabbi Pinter.

“This is why we dress up because there was an issue of her pretending to befriend him, because she had done this sort of masquerade.”

Presents are given to acquaintances and are not usually ostentatious, involving something like a bottle of wine with chocolates, fruit or a cake.

“Purim is a time to build up relationships with your fellow men, and that’s the idea of giving presents so that people should build up community relations,” explained Rabbi Pinter.

“At a time when people are concerned for security and safety, people need to get the message behind it, which is showing friendship.”