Road Trip

Celebrate Purim in Montgomery County

Sunday, March 16, 2008

WHERE: Silver Spring and Rockville.

WHY: A Purim party, noisemakers and rescued scrolls.

HOW FAR: About seven miles from start to finish.

The queen is coming to Montgomery County's Little Israel.

The royalty in question is Esther, a legend in Jewish lore and a cause celebre. Around 350 B.C., a government official named Haman set out to rid the Persian kingdom of its Jewish inhabitants. However, Queen Esther revealed herself as a Jew to her husband, the king, thereby saving her people.

To celebrate this heroic feat, Jews hold Purim festivals that include candy swapping, theatrical retellings of the story and children dressed as their favorite characters from the story.

Home to nearly half the Jews in the Washington area, Montgomery County is an ideal place to celebrate Purim, which starts at sunset Thursday and runs through Saturday. The county's dense Jewish population dates to World War II, when Jews came to the District to work for the government and eventually spread to the suburbs. They built kosher restaurants and markets, Jewish novelty stores and, of course, a New York bagel shop.

Chabad of Silver Spring, a Jewish community center, will host one of the area's largest Purim festivals Thursday. The event will feature jugglers, clowns, kosher hot dogs, hamantaschen (traditional Purim pastries) -- and many queens for the day.

-- Ben Chapman

© 2008 The Washington Post Company