Purim is a time to celebrate, and that's just what West Valley Jews did this weekend. The Chabad Jewish Center of Goodyear held its first-ever Purim Party Sunday afternoon at Quality Inn & Suites in Goodyear. 

The event was open to the entire Jewish community, regardless of affiliation or background, said Rabbi Berel Zaklikofsky, who is relocating from New York to Arizona later this year. He'll serve as director for what is to become the first synagogue in the Southwest Valley.

“Purim is a day of sharing together in utter joy,” Zaklikofsky said. “The Jews not only survived, but triumphed, because of their active unity and unshakable commitments to their identity as a practicing Jewish community.”

The festival of Purim is celebrated every year on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar. It commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from a plot by Haman, an adviser to King Ahasuerus, “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day.”

The plot was foiled by King Ahasuerus' wife, Queen Esther, who, unbeknownst to him, was a Jew.

The holiday is observed by public readings of the Megillah (“Scroll of Esther”) sending food portions to friends, giving gifts of money to the poor, and enjoying a festive meal accompanied with joyous drink.

The local Purim Party, attended by Zaklikofsky and his family, featured a light buffet lunch, as well as l'chaim, Hamantaschen, a Purim piñata, a costume party, music, dancing and plenty of schmoozing.

“It's a family party,” Zaklikofsky said. “This holiday symbolizes Jewish freedom in a more external way. We celebrate in a more external way by having a meal, getting together with the family.”

Zaklikofsky said the festival of Purim places a lot of emphasis on Jewish youths because the next generation is the best bet for continuing the customs of Judaism.

“We see that the holiday of Purim is significant because the miracle that occurred was for all ages,” Zaklikofsky said.

“We see how through the story of Purim the only way we can continue the Jewish tradition, the only way to bring Judaism to the next generation, is to focus on the youth,” he said. “The only way we can prevail is by being together, uniting all groups, all ages. That's the only way we can win a war, overcome stress and overcome crisis in any situation.”

Once Zaklikofsky relocates to the Southwest Valley, which could be as early as this summer, the Chabad Jewish Center of Goodyear will operate out of his home until a permanent center can be built.

As with the future synagogue, this weekend's Purim Party marked a major milestone for an under-served West Valley Jewish population, Zaklikofsky said.

“People are just so excited. There's a tremendous yearning for Judaism and the Jewish center in the area, especially by the youth,” the rabbi said.

In December, he and his wife made the trek from Brooklyn, N.Y., to the Phoenix area to lead a public menorah-lighting celebration at Goodyear Community Park, commemorating the Jewish holiday of Chanukah.

“We're so honored to move there, and even though it's a challenge for us to work from Brooklyn right now, and of course the move will be a little bit of a challenge, but the more we receive feedback and see how excited people are, we don't see this as a challenge,” Zaklikofsky said. “We see this is a wonderful thing.”