I was not sure if I wanted to attend the Purim Party hosted by a new organization called "The Hidden Child." This group is made up of Jewish people who, as children in Europe, were hidden in order to escape Nazi persecution. To me, the holiday of Purim has meant great joy- a festive atmosphere of eating, drinking and dancing.
My previous experience with the Hidden Child organization had been of an entirely different nature- quite the opposite of Purim. The one meeting I attended last summer brought forth many sad memories and tearful exchanges between very dear friends, some of whom I have known for over thirty years. They suddenly opened up and told me the most incredible stories. I was shocked. I had thought I knew them so well, and now I was suddenly hearing their horrifying stories about their years in hiding. You can imagine my difficulty in associating the Hidden Child organization with the holiday of Purim.
Yet as an easily persuadable person, some of my good friends talked me into attending the party. On that Sunday even the weather seemed to be against the idea of the party. It was already snowing and more snow was forecast, but we drove to the party anyway.
To my most pleasant surprise, I was greeted upon my arrival by cheerful music. A young man was playing mostly Israeli and Jewish music that would have done justice to any Purim party. The guests were dressed in their finery, and there were many good-looking faces (and figures), all having a wonderful time. People were wearing makeshift tags for identification, imprinted with just their name and country of origin. Most were in their fifties and early sixties. All of them had been children in Europe during World War II.
Suddenly I felt very comfortable. I did not stand out because of my accent- everyone had an accent, although each was different. I struck up conversations with complete strangers and tried to guess their country of origin without looking at their nametags. Some people I knew already. I met a girl whom I knew when she was nine years old. She survived the War miraculously and is now a most beautiful and sophisticated woman. She is a mother of very successful children and is also a grandmother. Where did she learn the art of being a mother? And whom did she blame when things went awry as she was growing up?
I met a woman who would only tell me her first name. She is still afraid to admit that she is Jewish. Some members of her present family still do not know her origins. There was good food, no speeches- thank the Lord, and happy atmosphere. Everybody was dancing. Unfortunately there were not enough men. This did not deter the women, however, they just danced with each other.
At one point I thought about all these people as children, hungry, lonely, and on the run, not knowing where their next meal would come from or where they would spend the night. My eyes filled with tears but only for a second, because I too was determined to have a good time. And I did.