Photo Credit: Saul Jay Singer

The scope and variety of Purim celebrations over the past few centuries are truly remarkable, and I present here some of my favorite such Purim announcements and invitations from my extensive collection of Purim materials.



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Exhibited here is a beautifully decorated 1926 Purim party invitation from the Berlin Zionists Association and the Jewish National Fund beautifully decorated by Berthold (Martin) Herko, which boasts, among other things, “magnificent decorations: bazaar streets – tent camps – oases”; “3 bands: master jazz band of Germany: Louis Stern”; “Cabaret: conference: Lutz Hirschbruch”; and “Tombola: Main prize: 1 ticket to Palestine sponsored by Palestine-Lloyd.”

The elaborately designed invitation also includes ads from various sponsors accompanied by Herko’s drawings, including Palestine Products G.m.b.H. (“Jaffa oranges finest for flavor”); Lubliner cigarettes (“we only smoke Lubliners Palestine cigarettes!); “Coal and coke for all open and heating systems, Herman Sontag, Charlottenburg”; steam laundry for Berlin households, Owner: N. Brunnenstrasse (“delivers flawless laundry at the cheapest price”); The Dollhouse (“Nucki the lucky doll”); and Matthäus Müller wine (“and when you grow up, just drink Matthäus Müller, the good sparkling wine!!”). The early ad for the wine and produce of Eretz Yisrael is particularly poignant:

40 years of desert hiking to the goal of our longing! The view of the promised land is gray… Thirsty souls! Feast yourselves on the weeping of Rosh Pinah and En Gedi – who will serve you the daughter of the desert!! Enjoy the soft zither sounds, cymbal tones and jazz band drones with which the son oasis will delight your ears saxophonetically! Grumbling stomach! Refresh yourselves with the fruits of the land and strengthen yourselves for your journey to Eretz Israel!

The Purim party included a “tombola” – a raffle in which a numbered ticket is drawn at random from a revolving drum with a prize awarded to the holder of the ticket matching the number preassigned to the prize, in this case, a very desirable ticket from Germany to Eretz Yisrael sponsored by Palestine-Lloyd:

The white prophetess Tombola will give everyone his ticket and her magic spell will pour out wonderful gifts of the East… The eruption of the oasis took place at dawn. The camels must be saddled up and the burnnuts [?] must be cracked!!

Born in Chemnitz, Germany, as Herbert Cohn, Herko (1896-1988) attended school in Berlin before escaping the Nazis to live in Caracas and then New York. He studied etching with Käthe Kollwitz and expressionism painting with Walter Kurau and Georg Tappert, working as a commercial illustrator and as a watercolor painter during World War I while stationed in France, and later in Russia and as a cartoonist for various publications after the war.

Painting primarily in a European Expressionist style, Herko created portraits of many leading figures in arts, politics and industry, and his well-received shows across the globe included exhibitions in New York, Berlin, Zürich, Chicago, Paris, and London. In 1935 he founded his own art school in Berlin, where he met his wife after she decided to study art because being Jewish had barred her pursuit of the study of medicine in Berlin.


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Exhibited here is a beautifully designed 1901 invitation to a Purim Ball for Jewish authors whose frame includes illustrations of Jewish figures, designed by Ephraim Moshe Lilien.

Lilien (1874-1925), the first artist to become involved in the Zionist movement, collaborated closely with Herzl, and his photograph of the Zionist leader on the Rhine Bridge has come to be the definitive pictorial representation of the Father of Modern Zionism. Along with Boris Schatz and others, he was a member of the committee formed to establish the Bezalel School of Art in Jerusalem (1905), where he taught the following year. His drawings, executed mainly in India ink, show a crisp, elegant line, and a strong contrast between black and white areas, and many of his better-known etchings, which record his impressions of Eretz Yisrael, have entered the collective Jewish consciousness.


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Extreme rarity; the first Jewish National Fund stamp tied by a bi-lingual postmark “Purim Kostumfest (costume festival) Berlin 5663.” The stamp is cancelled Purim, March 15, 1903.



Announcement regarding Megillah readings at the Etz Chaim region (Purim, 1943).


Exhibited here is a 1943 announcement regarding Megillah reading time in the Etz Chaim region in Eretz Yisrael:

The Megillah will be read both at night and on the morning of the 14th (of Adar) at the Beit Medrash in Etz-Chaim region (near Moshav Zekenim).

Visitors from the cities and moshavot who pray in the traditions of the of the Ari (R. Isaac Luria) who are obligated to read on the 14th but find themselves in Jerusalem on that day should come to hear the reading of the Megillah at the Beit Medrash mentioned above.

Exhibited here is a small card 1914 invitation to a Purim celebration in Berlin:

Invitation to Purim celebration (Berlin, 1914).


Hebrew Purim celebration.
The Hebrew Committee House in Charlottenburg
Poetry, song, clowning around, jokes, decadence, and folly.
The food is inexpensive and the drink is as per custom.

ON PURIM DAY 14 Adar 1914 at 9:00 p.m.
In the Johann Georg auditorium.

Charlottenburg was the Berlin district with the highest Jewish population in the 1920s and, as the central location for Jewish life in Berlin in the years before World War II, a large proportion of Berlin’s 170,000 Jews lived there. The fast-growing Charlottenburg Jewish Community purchased the premises for the construction of a synagogue in 1905, and the liberal Fasanenstrasse Synagogue opened there on August 26, 1912, featuring a structure large enough to accommodate up to 1,720 worshippers and a religious school.


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Shown here is a program printed by the Zionist Organization in Konigsberg, which includes a Prolog narrated by Cacilie Hermann; a presentation of Festival Night: Spring and Winter, from Solomon Goldschmidt; a Violin Solo played by Hugo Konn, accompanied on piano by Hermann Rosowski; the singing of Hatikvah by Simon Schereschewski, accompanied on piano by Anna Reichman; Queen Esther: Shadow Game (‘during which time the doors will be closed’), and a Children’s Dance. Hospitality for children held in Room 1, and a buffet for adults in Room 2.

For centuries, the Königsberg municipal government and its people objected to the admission of Jews, and it was not until 1654 that a Jew named Lazarus was granted the privilege of unrestricted commerce there by the King of Poland. In 1680, Jews were permitted to establish a chapel. The Königsberg Jewish population was founded in 1704, when the cemetery was acquired, and the synagogue was dedicated on December 23, 1756, when there were 307 Jews in Königsberg; afterwards the population increased to more than 5,000 in 1880 but decreased to under 4,000 after Russian subjects were expelled.

The assault from Reform Judaism was particularly strong in Königsberg during the 19th century, but relative peace prevailed after Rav Yaakov Zvi Mecklenburg became the leader of Orthodoxy in 1830, although he strictly opposed general reforms and conceded only the slightest moderations. When organs and German prayer books were introduced in other communities in the 1850s, R. Mecklenburg was strong and unambiguous in his opposition, but he was able to maintain peaceful coexistence until he was succeeded by Isaac Bamberger, who approved the long-contested organ. As a result, the members of the German Orthodox group Adas Yisroel decided to pray separately but due to the efforts of Rabbi Bamberger, who argued for “coexistence by separation,” and his agreement to build a new and separate synagogue, they did not withdraw entirely from the Jewish community until a bitter battle over shechitah (ritual slaughter) broke out after R. Bamberger’s death in 1896.

In 1907, the total number of Orthodox synagogue seats amounted to 440, or 25 percent of all available synagogue seats in Königsberg, and it was in this contentious environment that our Purim celebration was held in 1904.

Purim Ball – Johannesburg (1938).

Exhibited here is a notice from the Johannesburg Women’s Zionist League regarding “a very important business meeting” for February 24, 1938, regarding the Purim Ball; “Tombola (a type of raffle) gifts must be brought.”

Jews, who were prominent in Johannesburg life from its earliest days, helped to build up the city as South Africa’s commercial, industrial and financial center. A permanent Jewish presence in South Africa was not established until the beginning of the Dutch colonization in the region in the mid-17th century, and the first official South African Jewish congregation was founded in Cape Town in 1841. During the period of British colonial rule in the 19th century, the Jewish South African community expanded greatly, and from 1880 to 1914, the Jewish population there grew from 4,000 to over 40,000, with the vast majority tracing their heritage back to immigrants from Lithuania who arrived in South Africa at the close of the 19th and the dawn of the 20th centuries.

When diamonds and gold were discovered near the town of Kimberley in the 1860s, existing Jewish settlers, who were already involved in trade in the area, were able to quickly establish themselves in the mushrooming diamond industry, and many of the Jews of Cape Town relocated to Johannesburg to be closer to the center of the diamond business. The growth of the Jewish community in Johannesburg was such that the city was occasionally called “Jewburg.”

In 1896 there were 6,253 Jews in the city, more than half of them from Eastern Europe. By 1899, the Jewish population had risen to about 11,000 and, at the time of our Purim celebration in 1904, Rabbi J. L. Landau served as rav of the Johannesburg Hebrew Congregation (he had assumed that position in 1903).

Purim “Costum-Fest” at the Mercur Club in Leipzig (1899).

Exhibited here is a colorful card of a Purim “Costum-fest” at the Mercer Club in Leipzig on February 4, 1899.

Leipzig, a city in the German state of Saxony, has historically been a Jewish center, with Jewish communities there as early as the 13th century but, as Jews were essentially only permitted short stays in the city between the 16th and 18th centuries, a permanent Jewish community was virtually non-existent notwithstanding the thousands of Jews, mostly traders and merchants, who remained in the city for Leipzig’s Trade Fair. However, by the end of the 18th century, there were about 50 Jewish merchants and their households with permanent residence in the city and, starting in 1810, Polish Jews who came to Leipzig to trade were permitted to remain.

On May 18, 1837, Leipzig’s growing Jewish community received permission to form a religious community, though their request for permission to build a synagogue was denied; on August 16, 1838, however, they were granted civil rights (except municipal and political rights.) The Jewish community as an official state-recognized organization was established in 1847, and mid-19th-century reform movements led to the construction of the Leipzig Synagogue in 1855. At the beginning of the 20th century, when there were approximately 6,000 Jewish inhabitants in Leipzig, antisemitism intensified and targeted harassment and discrimination against Jews significantly increased, making our Purim Costum-Fest a welcome respite for the increasingly besieged Jewish community.


“Purim Entertainment and Ball” given under the auspices of Our Literary Circle on Thursday evening, March 10, 1892 (Price: fifty cents).


Entrance ticket, in both English and Hebrew, issued by the Jewish Youth Organization in Jerusalem to the “Fancy Dress Ball” at the Russian Buildings Hall on Wednesday, March 7, 1928, at 9:00 p.m. (“Use this opportunity to purchase a library from “Moriah”).


Purimspiel program (Budapest synagogue youth center, 1932).

Exhibited here is an invitation and program for a 1932 “Purimspiel” held at the Budapest synagogue youth center “in the March snow” on the 20th of Adar at 11 a.m. The show includes “I believe in telling the children”; “Purim greeting”; “Purimland”; “the children sing musically”; “Purim truths”; “Purim doctrine”; and a Purim play, “Paul the Hamantaschen.”

The first Jewish settlers came to Buda from Germany during the second half of the 12th century, and over the course of the ensuing centuries they were isolated in a ghetto, forced to wear a red badge, and expelled twice, first in 1349 following antisemitic allegations related to the Black Death and again in 1360 due to hostility from the Church. An autonomous Jewish community rose to prominence during the 14th century until 1526, when the Turks captured Buda and expelled the Jews. They were exiled yet again in 1746 by Empress Maria Theresa, but Emperor Josef II permitted the Jews to return in 1783. By the 1850s, there were about 7,000 Jewish families living in Buda, and by 1869, four synagogues had been built, with two more added at the end of the 19th century.

Jews are first mentioned as living in Pest in 1406, but Jewish settlement there ended after the Austrian conquest in 1686. It was not until 1746, when the Jews were expelled from Buda, as discussed above, that they again settled in Pest, although Emperor Josef II imposed a special “tolerance tax” on them. The city’s first synagogue was opened in 1787 on Kiraly Street, and the Great Synagogue on Doheny Street, which remains one of the largest in Europe, was built in 1859.

Buda and Pest were officially merged in 1873. When the White Terror hit Hungary in 1919-1921, Hungarian Jews became the leading victims of Horthy’s “purification.” Despite government-endorsed antisemitism and antisemitic violence, over 200,000 Jews were living in Budapest at the time of our Purimspeil, making it one of the largest Jewish communities in the world on the eve of the Holocaust.

Purim celebration at Port Said, Egypt (1943).

Exhibited here are two tickets to a March 20, 1943, Purim celebration sponsored by the Circle of Jewish Youth at Port Said, Egypt.

Port Said, which extends about 19 miles along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea along the Suez Canal, was established in 1859 during the building of the Canal, and Jews who settled there were retail traders and money lenders. When a blood libel broke out against them (1882), the government protected them, but there were also later libels in 1901, 1903, and 1930. During the 1920s, the community had two shuls and a school, which closed in 1930. At the time of our Purim celebration, there were about 800 Jews living in Port Said, but almost all were forced to leave during the 1956 Suez campaign and there are no longer any Jews left in this once-thriving Jewish community.

Purim Seudah for the Jewish Brigade (Antwerp, Belgium circa 1944).

Shown here is an invitation from the Jewish National Fund to members of the Jewish Brigade to attend a festive Purim meal on March 21st at 8:30 p.m.

The Jewish Brigade, the Chativah Yehudith Lochemeth (“Jewish Fighting Force”), became the only independent military unit to serve in the British army during World War II; in fact, it was the only such Jewish force to serve in any of the Allied forces. It came about only after a prolonged and challenging struggle by the Zionist movement in general, and by the Jews of Eretz Yisrael in particular, to represent the Jewish people in the military struggle against the Nazis.


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Exhibited here is a humorous March 1961 invitation to the Purim Ball at the General Headquarters of the IDF:

Wonderous events – miracle upon miracle, fortunate is the eye that has seen all these!!
Important Notice: “Once Upon A Time”
March moon, 1961 according to the Gentile reckoning

Poignantly, the invitation has been inscribed by Rechavam Ze’evi:

To colleagues and correspondents:

We will feel your absence, but may you still have enough in the years to come.


“Gandhi” Ze’evi (1926-2001) was an Israeli general, politician, historian, and founder of the nationalist Moledet party who is perhaps best known for his controversial nationalist positions, including the transfer of Palestinians to Arab countries and, unfortunately, as the first Israeli cabinet officer to be assassinated by Palestinians (having been murdered on October 17, 2001 in the Jerusalem Hyatt on Har HaTzofim by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine during the Second Intifada). Though he saw the settlers as pioneers in the reclamation of biblically ordained Eretz Yisrael, he was not a particularly observant Jew, and though unsentimental toughness was his hallmark as both military governor of the West Bank and as a political leader, he was also known for his concern for Israel’s captured or missing soldiers and for his absolute love of the land of Israel.


“Neshef Sokolov” ticket to a Purim party held by the Histadrut on March 23, 1929, at Cooper Union after Shabbat. (Presumably, Jewish attendees were not locked up in the library to protect them against Hamas terrorists and supporters.)


Purim concert at the Rialto Theatre sponsored by the Young Judean National League on Sunday, March 11, 1917, at 10:00 a.m.; “Silver Collection in aid of the Hebrew School of Palestine.”


Founded in 1909, Young Judaea (“Yehuda Hatzair”), the oldest Zionist youth movement in the United States, runs programs throughout the United States for Jewish Youth in grades 2-12. It recognizes the State of Israel as a central part of Jewish life and stresses Jewish values, Jewish education, and the preservation of the identity of the Jewish people.


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Wishing everybody a happy and healthy Purim!


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Saul Jay Singer serves as senior legal ethics counsel with the District of Columbia Bar and is a collector of extraordinary original Judaica documents and letters. He welcomes comments at at [email protected].