Had Haman not been hanged and still been alive today, he would have been rather disappointed that his demeaning characterization of the Jews as “a people who are scattered and dispersed” was so wrong. In fact, Esther’s response of “Go and assemble all the Jews” is a pretty true description of the spirit of Purim nowadays.The whole Purim story emphasizes these themes of community and togetherness, and in our modern-day Jerusalem, you really sense that feeling of friendship and camaraderie – whether it’s Megillah readings in the streets, seeing mishloach manot baskets being delivered, or in the dressed-up youths visiting hospitals and old-age homes.In Jerusalem spoke with Nefesh B’Nefesh’s Yael Katsman, vice president of PR and communications, and Donna Horwitz, head of NBN’s Community Integration Division, about why Purim is so beloved among immigrants to Jerusalem.“I really enjoy how the city comes alive over Purim, especially during the weeks leading up to the holiday,” said Katsman. “Children come out from their schools all dressed up and store owners are all decked out in funky garb. It’s a happy time when residents put all their daily issues aside and enjoy celebrating together in a positive and fun way, and there are loads of charity projects running all at the same time.”Horwitz enthused, “It’s really special that we are celebrating a festival which actually happened in exile, now, in the center of the Jewish world – Jerusalem. The story of Purim is about Jews who were not independent; it’s unbelievable that we can celebrate this chag now, in our independent country.”Just two things to bear in mind: First, Jerusalem does tend to turn into one big street party over Purim. Many people make an effort to dress up to be part of the festive cheer. So even if you aren’t the dressing-up type, put on a fun hat or mask – you’ll feel better for it. Second, as Jerusalem is a walled city, even though the Fast of Esther is on Monday, March 9, Jerusalem will only actually celebrate Purim on Shushan Purim (Tuesday, March 10, in the evening and Wednesday, the 11th, during the day.)Communities throughout Jerusalem will be holding special Purim activities. Here are a selection of programs for the whole family: • The Kol HaNeshama community at 1 Asher St., Baka, will be holding its Purim celebrations on Tuesday, March 10. The festivities will start at 5:30 p.m. with a special children’s Megillah reading followed at 6:15 with an “everyone wins” costume contest for children and adults. At 6:30, there will be the main Megillah reading for adults, which will be followed by a Di Gasn Trio concert and dance party for the whole community.In Jerusalem spoke with Dr. Ilona Spector Shirz, who is in charge of community development at Kol HaNeshama. Spector Shirz said, “What is special about our Purim celebrations is that they are open to everyone, young and old, Israelis and Anglos, and all genders and religious affiliations. We are a truly egalitarian community who follow the Reform rituals.“Our children’s Megillah reading will be fun and bring the story alive. Our adults’ Megillah reading, led by our rabbi, Oded Mazor, will be conducted in the traditional Reform manner. The fancy dress competition is a truly family event, and children can take part with their parents and grandparents. It has been really original in the past. Last year someone came dressed as a rabbit made from balloons,” Spector Shirz enthused.“The formal part of the evening will be followed by the Di Gasn Trio Band, an Israeli Klezmer Band who mix old and new types of music. The party is again for everyone – from grandparents to youth – and we will be dancing until the early hours – ad d’lo yada [the tradition to celebrate until one cannot distinguish between blessed be Mordechai and cursed be Haman].”Spector Shirz added, “We will also be having Purim festivities run by our youth division on the day of Purim, from 10 a.m. to noon, for the young children in our community, from designing oznei Haman [hamantashen, literally “Haman’s ears”] and drawing, to performances and singing.”• Nishmat, the Jeanie Schottenstein Center for Advanced Torah Study for Women, will be having a pre-chag “Purim shuk,” a carnival for the entire family the day before Purim, Tuesday, March 10, from 10 a.m. at the Franny Kaplan Community Center, 20 Morris Fischer St. Shiran Greenfield, who organizes community activities at Nishmat, told In Jerusalem, “The purpose of this joint activity with Franny Kaplan is to show how Nishmat wants to be part of the wider community. After all, the whole purpose of Purim is to connect with Jews around us. We make sure our students perform the mitzvot of Purim in as public a way as possible.”Greenfield continued, “The Purim shuk is designed to be a family day out [for] children, parents and grandparents, with a focus on children’s activities: stations, games, prizes, bingo – all based on Purim themes. There will be food, pizza, popcorn, etc. We expect everyone to come dressed up, and the highlight of the day will be the fancy-dress competition at the end, with top prizes, including a bike and a karaoke machine. We will also be having a women’s Megillah reading, both in the evening at 8 p.m. and the morning at 8:30 a.m.” • Matan, the Sadie Rennert Women’s Institute for Torah Studies on 30 Rashbag St., will hold a special Purim program for women. Chaya Bina-Katz, director of development at Matan, told In Jerusalem, “For over 25 years, Matan, always in the forefront of advancing women in Torah, has held a women’s Megillah reading in our beit midrash. It’s wonderful to experience the joy of the chag with over 100 women of all ages and from all walks of life. They gather together to take part in this beautiful mitzvah, and to hear the voices of women reciting the Megillah for women.”Bina-Katz continued, “The Megillah readings [8:15 p.m. and 9 a.m.] are organized by Matan together with Midreshet Torah V’Avodah, and women from the community are all invited to come in costume. Light refreshments will be served after the reading. There are also women’s readings in our branches in Ra’anana and Hashmonaim.”• Shir Hadash, now on 1 Yaakov Rubin St., Talbiyeh, will be having Purim celebrations for all the family. At night, they will have two Megillah readings; one traditional and one more family-friendly. Rabbi Ian Pear of Shir Hadash told In Jerusalem, “This year, our big program will be in the day. At 8:15 a.m. we will have Shaharit followed by a traditional Megillah reading. At 10 a.m., they will be having a family-friendly Megillah reading with different voices for all the characters. “At 11 a.m. we will be holding a short ceremony celebrating the opening of the entrance pathway to our new building, and at 11:15 a.m. we will be hosting our Purim party, with loads of great refreshments, games and activities and amazing jumping castles for kids of all ages – and some for adults, too! The event is free to all, as it has been generously sponsored by Chavi Lee and family in memory of her late husband, Marty Lee.” Rabbi Pear concluded, “I learned in yeshiva that there are two types of Jews – Purim Jews and Tisha Be’av Jews. Here at Shir Hadash, we are definitely Purim Jews, and we’re going all out to make sure Purim day is a celebration for kids of all ages.”• The Shir Hadash on Emek community, at 43 Emek Refaim St., German Colony, is holding its Purim carnival – the only carnival in the area. The first Megillah reading is at 6 p.m., the second at 7:30 p.m. The carnival that follows will include tasty food, cocktails, a costume contest, a raging bull, a jumping castle and much more. Tickets are available online at tickchak.co.il/10170 or at the door.• The Beit Hanassi community in Rehavia will be having a proper sit-down, meat Purim seudah (meal). Rabbi Berel Wein will speak and entertainment will be provided by illusionist Tai Kovler. For more details and reservations: firstname.lastname@example.org or (02) 372-4045.• The Emek Learning Center on 64 Emek Refaim St. is having a Purim seudah on Wednesday, March 11, at 2 p.m. To book your ticket, write to email@example.com.• If you are looking for some pre-Purim learning, the OU Israel Center on 22 Keren HaYesod St. will be presenting a lecture by Rabbi Neil Winkler at 5:45 p.m., before a Megillah reading at 6:25. ’Round-the-clock Megillah readingsAll synagogues have Megillah readings in the evening and morning; many also have later readings. Readings at more irregular times are also available: The Katamon Shtiblach on 14 Ha-Khish St. and Chabad have readings into the night and at later times in the day. There are also “Azza Zaza” readings along Azza Road throughout the day. PartiesOf course, there are plenty of parties over Purim which many, especially singles, enjoy. Here are some highlights:• Mayanot Synagogue on 28 Narkis St. will be throwing a Purim party featuring the Solomon Brothers Band on Tuesday evening, following the Megillah reading. Maariv is at 6:15 p.m., followed by Megillah at 6:45. Refreshments and snacks will be served and entrance is free.• The Solomon Brothers will also be holding a Purim Extravaganza on Purim evening, from 10 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. at the Beer Bazaar in the Mahaneh Yehudah market. Reservations are required.• There will be parties on Purim evening at the Hansen House on Gdalyahu Alon St. and at the Tower of David – both from 10 p.m. Tickets required.• Habayit B’Palmach at 53 Palmach St. will be hosting a party on Tuesday evening, from 9:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. Socializing, a costume contest and games start at 9:30 p.m. and music and dancing begin at 10 p.m. • Our beloved shuk, the Mahaneh Yehudah market, is a popular location to show off your fancy dress and meet up with friends. There is a street party there on the evening of Purim, with music and plenty of festive cheer.• On the day of Purim, the annual street party – with its infectious spirit and innovative, eye-catching costumes – will go wild on Nissim Behar St. and throughout Nahlaot from 11 a.m. The beauty of Purim is that you can choose whatever aspect of the festival you personally identity with and enjoy – whether it’s dressing up and partying, or eating and getting a bit tipsy, or doing acts of kindness and visiting the sick and elderly, or maybe just studying Megillat Esther and reflecting on the survival of the Jewish people against the odds. What connects us all, especially in Jerusalem, is that Purim is a day to let our guard down, to give a little more and celebrate our friendships and relationships.