Although the Jewish holiday Purim is not officially celebrated until March 9, the Fairfield University community got a head start on Monday, Feb. 2 with the Hamantaschen Baking Contest hosted by Campus Ministry. Led by Rabbi Jim Prosnit, the Jewish chaplain on campus, and with support from associate director of student engagement, Marissa Lischinsky, students and faculty participated in this exciting, hands-on learning experience.
Purim is the Jewish holiday that commemorates the saving of Jewish people over 2,000 years ago from a massacre at the hands of a Persian noble, Haman. In order to represent Haman’s deceptive bribes, it’s tradition for those who celebrate to bake triangle-shaped cookies called hamantaschen.
Hamantaschen are typically filled with poppy seeds, apricots or apples. However, students were encouraged to be creative with their hamantaschen, using ingredients ranging from baked beans to oreo cookies and even kale chips. In between the fun, Rabbi Prosnit explained the story of Purim through readings and videos. Students were active participants in the presentation, often chiming in to share different aspects of the story or their own family traditions during Purim. To close out the event, the hamantaschen were judged by various faculty members on their creativity, flavor and presentation. While not an outwardly competitive event, the students took their tasks seriously and created some truly memorable hamantaschen.
Fairfield has an active, often overlooked, Jewish population among its students and faculty. Rabbi Prosnit, along with Lischinsky and a core group of Jewish students, hope to build more awareness of the Jewish culture on campus.
Speaking of his aspirations, Prosnit said, “One of the great things about Campus Ministry at Fairfield is that they really are trying to expand the diversity of the group that is involved in a religious point of view. While Fairfield is a Catholic, Jesuit University to be sure, there is a recognition that not everybody fits into that framework and there is really an opportunity for Muslim students, Jewish students, Protestant students and for students that are not the typical Catholic group to feel that Fairfield is a welcoming, hospitable place for them to express their relgious feelings and fervor.”
While there are certainly more plans in the works to highlight Fairfield’s active Jewish population, this event was no doubt one important step to bring awareness about the diversity of thought and beliefs on campus. Wishing all a happy and healthy Purim, with perhaps a few kale chip-flavored hamantaschen in between the other festivities. Or, as Julia Warman ‘22 put it when asked about some of the unorthodox ingredients, “I’m a little hesitant, but it’s better to try, than not to try.”