The Orthodox Union is holding 200 “karaoke-style” readings of Megilat Esther during Purim for the hard of hearing, deaf and elderly in synagogues across the US, UK, Israel and Australia.
The unique readings will be conducted with the help of PowerPoint presentations beamed onto giant projector screens, enabling participants to follow along visually as they see the words being read highlighted in front of their eyes.
The words are projected in both Hebrew and English and include special graphics depicting Haman’s malevolent and wicked character.
Purim is an exuberant and high-spirited holiday in the Jewish calendar involving fancy-dress, benevolent gift-giving and the consumption of large quantities of alcoholic beverages.
The megila reading, however, can be a frustrating experience for the deaf and hard of hearing, the OU says, since it is hard for them to follow along with the rest of the congregation.
Jewish law stipulates that one must listen to and follow every word of the Purim story told in Megilat Esther to fulfill the religious obligations of the holiday. However, those who are unable to hear are not required to observe this obligation.
“This is a brilliant program and will enable people with hearing disabilities, vision and seniors to be part of different communities to take an active part in the festivities and mitzvot of Purim,” said Batya Jacob, director of the project.
“The program was initially designed to allow the deaf and hard of hearing to participate in the holiday of Purim, but given the program’s numerous benefits, it now enables hundreds of synagogues to include a wide range of members of their congregations such as the elderly, individuals with learning disabilities, those with attention deficit disorders and small children,” Jacob added.
The special megila readings will be held for both the evening and morning prayer services.
The OU requests a $100 contribution from participating synagogues for the development of additional resources for the deaf and hard of hearing by the organization’s disabilities branch.