Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

A taste of Purim with the Jewish Pavilion and COS


Springhills seniors Bob Michelman and Dennis Keene celebrate Purim with the Jewish Pavlion and fourth-grade students from Ohev Shalom Kitah DAlet.

During the past 91 years, Lake Mary resident Dennis Keene of Springhills Assisted Living Community has developed a taste for hamantashen. Hailing from a religious family from England, each spring the Purim holiday was marked by the arrival of hamentashen baked by his mother. Memories of the triangular-shaped jelly-filled pastries traditionally eaten during Purim have stayed with him for the better part of a century.

"My mother was a wonderful cook and a wonderful baker," he said. When asked about his preferred flavor of Purim pastry, Keene declared, "If a hamantashen doesn't have mun (poppyseeds), it's not a hamantashen."  

Jewish Pavilion Program Director Emily Newman is also a fan of poppyseed filled hamantashen. "Mun is Yiddish for 'poppyseed', which is a very traditional type of hamantashen," she said. "Today's Purim celebration is all about maintaining tradition along with community connection for our senior population in assisted living and nursing homes."

On a Sunday morning in early March, Keene and approximately 30 other Springhills residents anxiously awaited the arrival of fourth-grade students from Maitland's Congregation Ohev Shalom Kitah DAlet, who would serve up the delicious Purim treats along with some holiday cheer.

"It's wonderful when the children come. It gives me hope for the future... and takes me back a few years when I attended the Cheder (religious school)," Keene commented.

The morning's events caused 94-year-old Bob Michelman to reflect back on the hamantashen baked by his grandmother in Brooklyn. Each Purim holiday, Michelman's grandmother would pull freshly baked prune-filled hamantashen from the oven. He noted that his grandmother's hamantashen "had the distinctive taste of Purim." He, too, looked forward to the bustle of the COS fourth graders. "Everybody's always so enthusiastic," Michelman said.

After much anticipation, the students paraded through the crowd, many adorned in the traditional Purim costume or mask, and then performed a short interactive skit that COS educator Diane Bloom said was a favorite as it had been written by Ohev students the year before. The class also sang a handful of Purim songs, encouraging the seniors to join in with the familiar lyrics. Several songs offered a small taste of the aforementioned "Purim cookie" or hamantashen. 

Robin Wolfe, Springhills' director of Recreational Services, noted that she enjoyed the educational and inclusive aspects of the celebration. She asked the students, "Could someone please explain this Purim treat to our residents who are unfamiliar with this holiday?"

Sophie Schaked immediately jumped in to help. "A hamantashen is like a cookie with three-sides, filled with jelly." Two additional students triangulated the explanation, sharing that the cookie is shaped like Haman's hat, and at times is filled with "chocolatey goodness," rather than jelly.

When the song and dance portion of the morning was complete, the students introduced themselves to Springhills' seniors with the help of a written questionnaire. COS educator Rebecca Geboff shared that the interview forms would help the students and seniors connect, and would help foster a meaningful experience. She added that last year's students still remembered the connections they made resulting from the interview process.

Teaching assistant Frances Hoffen set the tone for the students as she worked her way through the crowd of seniors, greeting each one with an outstretched arm. Hoffen extended a hand to resident Edith Wosneski who was seated beside her husband of 65 years, Ed. Edith shared that she had thoroughly enjoyed the Purim celebration, and had enjoyed many Jewish holidays over the years as an employee with the State of New York. "Not only do I love hamantashen, but I also love matzoh. Nothing is better with coffee than buttered matzoh," she shared. 

Fourth-grader Lou Tauber chatted comfortably with 97-year-old Dill Hurwitz as he filled in the blanks of the interview sheet. Hurwitz reminisced about the homemade hamantashen his mother baked in his home state of Wisconsin. He shared that there weren't too many Jews near his home near Lake Superior, adding, "But we did OK." As the two chatted, Hurwitz quietly crooned a song he recalled from his boyhood, ending in the words "aleph-bet." When asked, he could not recall the song's name, but noted that it brought out the feeling of community that was present on that Purim morning.


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