Few things bring Howard County’s Jewish community together like Purim Palooza and the Kids Activity Expo, and the 24th annual holiday event is expected to attract 1,500 people.
“I think that Purim Palooza [draws] so many families because it’s really the one time of the year that the whole county [can get together] regardless of religious affiliation, observance or synagogue membership,” said Randi Leshin, co-chair of the event and a Columbia native. The event, which takes place at Reservoir High School on March 20, is organized by the Jewish Federation of Howard County and sponsored by Camps Airy and Louise, DJ Doug, Window Nation and Sir Speedy as well as other synagogues, businesses, organizations and families.
Exhibitors and volunteers will provide food and activities such as photo novelties, airbrush hats and shirts, games, arts and crafts, face painting and — it wouldn’t be Purim without them — hamantaschen.
“I’ve watched Purim Palooza grow from a small community outreach program to this epic event,” said Doug Sandler, also known as DJ Doug, who has attended the event for more than 15 years.
Sandler, who recently moved to Rockville but was a longtime Howard County resident, became involved with the Federation initially as a way to network — he emcees for bar and bat mitzvah receptions — but said as he volunteered more, he began feeling like “a family member of the Federation.”
Being a DJ, his job requires him to stay up to date on popular trends among his audience; he brings that experience to the table when helping plan Purim Palooza.
“I’m a 51-year-old big kid,” said Sandler. “When we have seven or eight people around the table, my experience in the kid market has enabled me to make some proper decisions about entertainment, games and the flow of the event.”
Sandler added that although his kids are older, they have stayed involved in the event by helping him set up and run different booths. He joked that while he doesn’t profess to be a “hip or cool guy” himself, he knows what kids see as “hip and cool.”
Marty Rochlin, director of Camp Airy, sees the event as being similar to Jewish summer camp.
“We think what makes the Purim Palooza event appealing is that it’s a chance to do something Jewish with friends and family,” said Rochlin. “If [kids] aren’t involved in day school, they don’t have access [to that] on a regular basis. Going to an event like Purim Palooza lets you dive in and play for the day. That’s what camp is all about as well.”
Sara Magden, co-chair of the event alongside Leshin, stays involved with Purim Palooza and the Federation as a way of “setting the example for my daughter and husband.”
“Giving back to the community is important to me, and it has always been a strong value growing up,” said Magden.
While the Howard County Jewish community can sometimes be dwarfed by the neighboring community in Baltimore, Rochlin said he sees this event as a time for it to shine.
“I think for a lot of people, there is a misnomer that the Jewish community is centered around Pikesville or Baltimore County,” said Rochlin. “When there’s an event like this in Howard County, it sheds a real positive light that there are thriving Jewish communities in other places.”
Purim Palooza and Kids Activity Expo
Reservoir High School
11550 Scaggsville Road, Fulton
March 20, 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
$7 per person; $20 per family (includes 10 tickets; family package with extras, $72
Contact Meghann Schwartz for more information, 410-730-4976, ext. 106