HAVE A case of the winter blahs? Come out and enjoy the fun at the 10th community Purim carnival Feb. 24. About 100 volunteers will run game and craft tables and sell food. Six Columbia Jewish schools are abuzz with activity, planning and preparing for the festivities. The carnival is sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Howard County.
"It's a great way to reconnect with people that you may not have seen since last year," said Roberta Greenstein, executive director of the federation.
Purim is a joyous holiday that celebrates the deliverance of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from a decree ordering their annihilation.
Traditional celebration of the holiday includes reading the story aloud; giving money to charity and sending gifts of food to friends and neighbors; and holding a family meal and parties.
You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy the fun. Children may wear costumes to the carnival, which will offer two Moon Bounces, face-painting, a ring toss and "guess the sheckel," a game in which children guess how many beans are in a jar. For grownups, Best Buy gift certificates will be raffled.
"It's a terrific community event for kids," said Marge Gold, director of the Temple Isaiah Religious School. "We can do it at a much better scale together than if we each did our own."
Bet Yeladim Preschool and Kindergarten, Beth Shalom Congregation Religious School, Columbia Jewish Community School, Gan Israel Preschool and Day School, the Shalom School and Temple Isaiah Religious School will be represented at the carnival.
"It's important to have an activity where people can gather together regardless of affiliation," said Brenda Fishbein, Jewish Federation president.
"It brings together different Jewish organizations," said Barbara Frederick, associate director of Bet Yeladim preschool and kindergarten. "Everyone works together for one festivity."
In addition to providing fun and community spirit, the carnival brings the Jewish Federation to the forefront, Fishbein said. "Many people aren't aware of the function we serve for the community."
The federation offers services to families and senior citizens through a partnership with Jewish Family Services; it also works to preserve Jewish heritage by providing student scholarships to Jewish day-schools and preschools, according to the organization's literature.
In preparation for the carnival and for Purim, Columbia's Gan Israel Day School children have been baking Hamantashen, a traditional three-cornered filled cookie that represents the hat of Haman, the villain in the Purim story.
Proceeds from the carnival will benefit the six participating schools and student scholarships. The carnival will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Long Reach High School. The suggested donation is $3 for adults; children will be admitted free. Game tickets are 25 cents each.
Stevens Forest Elementary School celebrated Curious George's 75th birthday this month. The much-loved monkey - who stars in the classic children's book series of the same name - was the theme of the school's third Family Reading Night.
The event drew about 150 schoolchildren and their parents to Stevens Forest on a Friday night. Activities included games and story times for each grade level. Staff members volunteered as guest readers. Irva Gabin, children's librarian at the east Columbia library, discussed children's materials that are available at the library.
"The event is a great way to instill a love of reading in the kids while involving the entire family," said Janet Yarn, PTA president and event coordinator. "It is a family 'fun-raising' event," she said.
The evening was complete when Principal John Birus took on the role of Curious George's friend and companion, The Man in the Yellow Hat. Dressed, of course, in a big yellow hat and rain coat, Birus, with Assistant Principal Monterrey Morell, read the original Curious George story to all who attended in the school's cafeteria.
Families sat on blankets on the floor and ate flavored ices provided by the PTA while enjoying the story. The Columbia Crossing Target store donated 10 disposable cameras for the school's "Caught You Reading" display. Photos of children reading were on display throughout the school.
Heads up for Head Start
The Dasher Green Head Start Center is officially under construction. County officials and Head Start representatives got their hands dirty, hoisting shovels at the groundbreaking ceremony this month.
The center - on the campus of Dasher Green Elementary and Owen Brown Middle schools - will serve about 100 children from Owen Brown, Elkridge, Savage and North Laurel.
The hourlong ceremony included singing by about 20 three- and 4-year-old Head Start participants. Speeches were given by County Executive James N. Robey; C. Vernon Gray, Howard County Council chairman; Dorothy L. Moore, executive director of the Community Action Council; David Lett, regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Izella Robinson, Howard County Head Start Policy Council chairman; Jean Lewis, chairman of the Community Action Council's board of directors; and Sydney L. Cousin, who represented Superintendent of Schools John R. O'Rourke.
The center is scheduled to open in the fall.
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays will present the film After Stonewall at 7:30 tonight at Owen Brown Interfaith Center.
The film, narrated by musician Melissa Etheridge, explores gay history in the United States from the 1970s through the 1990s. A discussion will follow the screening. Admission is free.
PFLAG also offers support groups. Information: Colette Roberts, 410-290-8292.