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Many Jewish communities in the United Kingdom mark Purim as the date to remember the Jewish people’s deliverance from a royal death decree around the fourth century BCE, as told in the Book of Esther. It's usually celebrated on the 14th day of the month of Adar in the Jewish calendar, which is in February or March in the Gregorian calendar.

What Do People Do?

Many Jewish people in the United Kingdom listen to the Megilla (or Megillah) during Purim. Graggers, which are Purim noisemakers, are used to drown out the name of the villain Haman when the story of Esther is read, particularly to children, at synagogues. 

Synagogues are often crowded during Purim. Many people wear their best clothes while others dress up in colorful costumes and masks. Children in particular enjoy dressing up as the characters found in the Book of Esther. Purim gift baskets are exchanged on this occasion. Many Jewish people also donate to charity around this time of the year.

Background

Jewish settlement in England can be traced as far back as the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066. The Jewish community outnumbered the Spanish and Portuguese communities in England by the 18th century. They built large synagogues and their wealth and status was varied. Some prosperous families commissioned coats-of-arms and used them on their possessions.

Many Jewish families in Eastern Europe moved to England to escape persecution and hardship between 1881 and 1914. About 150,000 Jewish people settled in England, with large numbers staying at London's East End during that time. England continued to receive Jewish immigrants escaping persecution around the time of World War II (1939-1945).

Jewish people comprise a rich cultural mix in the United Kingdom today, where festivals such as Purim are celebrated. Purim commemorates the time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination by the courage of a Jewish woman called Esther.

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