Masks, Megillah, and Hamantaschen

Frivolity and fun took center stage at LifeTown in mid-March, with masks and sweet treats revealing all sorts of heroes and maybe even a few miracles in the Friendship Circle Purim activities.

40 pounds of flour, 80 cups of sugar, and 55 cups of six filling added up to plenty of cheer at the grand Friendship Circle Hamantaschen Bake on Tuesday, March 15. More than 100 people rolled up their sleeves at the pre-Purim event.

After making the pastry dough, they chose from an assortment of fillings, including lemon curd and custard, chocolate chips and fruity jams, to craft many dozens of the triangular pastries with treats secreted inside. Participants included children, teens, families, and individuals from across the community.

“We wanted to help everyone get into the Purim spirit,” said Esty Grossbaum, Junior Division Program Director, who ran the event, one of the first involving the general community since the Covid outbreak, just after the 2020 Hamentashen Bake. “I really like seeing everyone coming back!” said Grossbaum. “It’s so great to see how many teens came to have a good time.”

Later that evening, participants in Joshua’s Club, a virtual meeting place for young adults 21 and over, held their own Purim festivities over Zoom. Donning masks featuring Purim characters provided by Friendship Circle, they baked Purim cookies, learned about the story of Purim, and celebrated together. About 20 people joined, including a handful of newcomers.

For this group, some of whom now live a distance away from LifeTown, it’s an opportunity to continue to stay engaged with Friendship Circle.

Launched in September in memory of Joshua Gendel, who joined Friendship Circle in 2001 when he was just two years old and participated until he passed away in April, 2021, Josh’s Club is an effort to provide stimulating programming and outreach to an age group that can become very isolated as they no longer attend school and may have moved to group homes.

For Jonathan Listhaus, 31, who lives in Teaneck and has been part of Friendship Circle since its inception, Josh’s Club is a lifeline. “Even though he no longer lives in the area, it’s a chance to connect and engage with his friends from a distance,” said his mother, Barbara Listhaus. He put on his mask for the Zoom and kept it on to keep the spirit going even while baking his hamantaschen.

The pre-Purim events were followed by the Purim events. The holiday began with multiple Megillah readings at LifeTown and around town, and concluded with a family Purim Party. Hundreds of people enjoyed the festivities, of course dressed in their Purim costumes.

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