Children and parents roar down a giant slide at Temple Judea s annual Purim festival in Tarzana on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013.
Children and parents roar down a giant slide at Temple Judea s annual Purim festival in Tarzana on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013. (Gene Blevins/Special to the Daily News)

TARZANA - Hundreds of people danced, enjoyed carnival rides and ate traditional foods Sunday as part of one of the largest Purim festivals in Los Angeles.

For nearly 30 years, Temple Judea has held the Purim festival and carnival on Lindley Avenue so that the community can come together and celebrate the ancient and timeless story of how a beautiful and wise queen named Esther foiled a plot to kill all the Jews in a Persian kingdom.

An estimated 5,000 people were expected to attend the two-day event, which ended Sunday.

"The holiday of Purim is all about laughter in the face of evil," said Rabbi Don Moskowitz. "We should learn to laugh more, especially now, in these times."

During Purim, children wear costumes and listen to the retelling of the story, told from the Megillah, or Book of Esther, of the heroine behind the annual celebration that symbolizes triumph of good over evil.

They hear how Esther marries King Ahasuerus and becomes queen in a Persian kingdom. But Esther's cousin Mordecai learns of a plot to kill all the Jews and tells her.

Using this information, Esther wines and dines her husband to make him see the treachery behind the plan organized by Haman, the King's adviser. Haman is hanged and the Jews of the kingdom are saved.

As is tradition, each time Haman's name is mentioned, the audience responds by booing and hissing, as well as stomping their feet or using noisemakers or whistles.

Hamantaschen, a jam filled, triangle shaped pastry that symbolizes Haman's hat, also is eaten as part of the holiday.

"It's a holiday of freedom and a wonderful time to bring the children so they can enjoy the fresh air, the food and the rides," said Rina Shmargal of Agoura Hills, who, along with her grandchildren and daughter-in-law Rebecca Ickovic, enjoyed the clear, warm day.

"It's a beautiful holiday to celebrate," Shmargal said. "It reminds us we should never take our freedom for granted."

Many other temples across the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles held Purim carnivals as well. The events also serve as fundraisers to help families pay for private school or for their children to attend summer camps, said Victor Schwartz, chairman of the Purim community carnival committee.

"We have 200 volunteers and they're all so energized," Schwartz said. "Everybody works so well together."

Lita Ovadya of Sherman Oaks took her two small children to the event. Ovadya, whose daughter dressed as a fairy and her son as a superhero, said it was nice to meet with other Jewish people outside of her native Israel.

"We feel special to celebrate our holiday here in the United States where it's so diverse," Ovadya said.

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