February Sisterhood Showcase: Vashti’s Banquet program
Congregation Neveh Shalom Sisterhood’s Purim program for several years has been a “Vashti’s Banquet”. The name comes from the banquet that Queen Vashti throws when she refuses to be the entertainment for the king and his guests in the story of Megillat Esther, the book we read on Purim. This program includes an opportunity for us to learn about the power of women and the choices we make, based upon the stories of both Esther and Vashti. It also provides an opportunity to gather as women with food, drink, dancing, and henna. We share the event with another Conservative Synagogue in the area. This program is well-attended by all ages of women.
Considerations for choosing a restaurant: We wanted to find a Middle Eastern-style restaurant that can hold a large number of women in a private room. We also need to serve vegetarian-only dishes and want a fixed menu so that we can charge up-front to cover all costs. (We usually add all the costs, divide by the number that we expect to come, and then add a few dollars for non-Sisterhood members. We prorated the charges between our Sisterhoods based on attendance.) The Moroccan restaurant that we chose has good food with several vegetarian choices, a wonderful atmosphere, and was happy to work with us on a fixed-price meal. It is decorated as if you are sitting in a tent, and many of the seats are soft stools at low tables. The restaurant also has a belly dancer, who loves to teach our women a few moves.
Each year, we invite a different Jewish educator (we have used our female rabbi and our sister synagogue’s female Education Director) to share her insights at the beginning of the evening. After her talk, we recite Ha’Motzi and begin the meal.
We are lucky that the restaurant already had a belly dancer. If they did not, we would have looked for one. (A member of our community is a trained belly-dancer and we would have asked her first.) We did hire a Henna artist who, with her assistant, gave everyone who wanted Henna tattoos on their hands, wrists, or arms. The program was successful enough that it has been continued for several years.
For more information, feel free to contact Dana Sirkin at firstname.lastname@example.org .