Library Staff Profile: Christine Leddy

Christine Leddy, Librarian, Health Sciences Library – Central Islip 

Welcome to the latest in our series of Staff Profiles. Christine Leddy recently joined the Touro community as Librarian at the Health Sciences Library, which serves the School of Health Sciences and the Graduate School of Education and Psychology. Christine answered some questions for us below:

Where were you born? 

I was born in Brooklyn, New York. My family moved to Long Island when I was four years old, and I grew up in the town of South Farmingdale. 

Where else have you lived? 

My husband and I have been raising our three children in the beautiful hamlet of Bohemia for the past 17 years. 

What languages do you speak? 

I speak English, although I’ve formally studied Spanish and Italian. Additionally, my daughter and I have spent many hours together self-teaching Sign Language. 

What fields have you studied and/or degrees have you earned? 

I have an MLS in Library and Information Science from Long Island University. I also have a Bachelor’s in Childhood Education and Social Sciences, and New York State Teacher Certification in Elementary Education. I have taught in the classroom, both in person and virtually, to students from Kindergarten through the collegiate levels. 

What is your ideal vacation?   

While my ideal vacation includes sun, sand, and piles of books, I also love to visit Theatre and museums, the Bronx Zoo, and Disney World. 

Any hobbies?   

My favorite hobbies include playing board/card games with my family, cooking and baking, arts and crafts, reading and listening to music, and playtime with my dog. One craft in particular that is a favorite of mine is crocheting soft and cozy blankets for shelter animals – the shelters are extremely grateful for the donations (and, I would imagine, so are the dogs and cats!) 

Favorite food? 

Cannolis. 

Tell us one thing about yourself that most of us probably don’t know. 

I love a good Horror movie! The creepier, the better. 

Thanks, Christine, and welcome to Touro!

Who is that masked man? Happy Purim!

image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Book of Esther, Hebrew, c. 1700-1800 AD - Royal Ontario Museum - DSC09614.JPG •Uploaded by Daderot Created: November 20, 2011
image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Book of Esther, Hebrew, c. 1700-1800 AD – Royal Ontario Museum – DSC09614.JPG  Uploaded by Daderot Created: November 20, 2011

[this post, by Toby Krausz, Judaica Librarian, was written in 2019 and has been updated for publication March, 2022]

On the night of Wednesday, March 16th, after having fasted all day Jews all over the world will gather in synagogues, houses of worship, places of study, and sometimes in their own homes to hear the story of Purim.

A long time ago when the empire of Persia and Medea ruled the world, all citizens of the capital city of Shushan were called to a feast at the king’s palace. Though the leader of the Jewish community, a very wise man named Mordechai, advised against it, the Jews of Shushan felt they had no choice but to obey the king’s decree. This feast was the beginning of a series of events that would lead King Achashverosh (Ahasuerus or Xerxes in English), to stamp and seal a terrible decree on the suggestion of his wicked advisor, Haman (a direct descendant of the ancient Jewish enemy Amalek): all Jews in the kingdom were to be slaughtered on the fourteenth day of the upcoming Hebrew month of Adar. Men, women, and children would be destroyed, no survivors. The Jews of the kingdom gathered in prayer under the guidance of their leader Mordechai. They donned sackcloth and ashes in mourning. But the Jewish people had a secret weapon, one that had been put in place sometime earlier: Mordechai’s niece, Esther, had been chosen out of all the beauties in the kingdom to marry King Achashverosh. Queen Esther lived modestly in the palace, keeping her Jewish identity and faith secret, but in this, she had no choice but to act. When she heard of the decree, she fasted and prayed for three days. Then Queen Esther went before the king without being summoned. This was a selfless, extraordinarily brave act that would lead to her death unless Achashverosh stretched out his scepter in welcome. Miraculously, he did.

Image Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons File:Purim, 1724.jpg Uploaded by Jonund Created: August 17, 2004
Image Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons File:Purim, 1724.jpg, Uploaded by Jonund Created: August 17, 2004. Illustration of the megillah being read from Juedisches Ceremoniel, a German book published in Nürnberg in 1724 by Peter Conrad Monath. The book is a beautifully illustrated description of Jewish religious ceremonies, rites of passage and feast days.

Esther had devised a plan: all Jews would fast and pray with her as she invited the King and the wicked Haman to a party. During the party, King Achashverosh was so struck by Esther’s beauty that he offered her anything, “up to half the kingdom.” She asked that he and Haman attend the party she would make tomorrow-then she would make her true request. That notorious night, the King could not sleep. Wondering why, he asked for the royal chronicles to be read, thinking that perhaps he owed someone a favor and that was subconsciously bothering him. He discovered that he did: part of the series of events leading to the terrible decree included Mordechai saving King Achashverosh’s life from an assassination plot. The King realized he had never rewarded the righteous Jew for saving his life.

Coincidentally, on the way home from the party Haman passed Mordechai and was incensed that Mordechai refused to bow in respect to him like everyone else. Haman was so angry he decided he could not wait for Adar: he would build a gallows and hang Mordechai on it, first thing in the morning. He began construction immediately on said gallows and ran to the king in the middle of the night to ask permission for a public execution. Before Haman could make his request, however, the king asked his top advisor what Haman thought should be done to the man whom the king wishes to honor. Thinking that man was naturally himself, Haman suggested he don the royal robes and crown, riding the king’s own horse through the capital city of Shushan, with an attendant declaring before him, “Thus shall be done to the man whom the king wishes to honor!” (Haman had a certain enemy of his in mind when he came up with that last bit) To his shock and horror, the king declared Mordechai was to be honored in this manner, with Haman leading the way and doing the proclaiming. This act gave the Jews of Shushan hope. When Haman finally arrived home after this humiliating experience, he was immediately called back to the palace for Esther’s party. During the party, Esther revealed her identity and her request: her own life and the lives of her people. King Achashverosh raged and demanded to know who would kill his own queen (perhaps the wine he drank at the party gave him selective memory). Esther pointed straight at Haman. The plot was foiled. The Jews were saved.

Image courtesy of WikiMedia Commons. Ahasuerus and Haman at Esther's Feast, by Rembrandt, File:Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn - Ahasuerus, Haman and Esther - Google Art Project.jpg, Uploaded by DcoetzeeBot.
Image courtesy of WikiMedia Commons. Ahasuerus and Haman at Esther’s Feast, by Rembrandt, File:Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn – Ahasuerus, Haman, and Esther – Google Art Project.jpg, Uploaded by DcoetzeeBot.

In a miraculous twist of events, Haman and his ten sons were hanged on the gallows prepared for Mordechai. All Haman’s estates were given to Queen Esther. Mordechai was made second to the King and the decree was reversed: on the fourteenth of Adar, the day we now celebrate the holiday of Purim, named for the pur, or lots (as in gambling) that Haman threw to determine the month the destruction would take place, the Jews now had permission to turn the tables and wipe out all their enemies.

To commemorate the story of this miracle, Esther’s parties, and the idea that all became topsy-turvy that day, we hear the Megillas Esther (the book of Esther) read aloud twice, give each other gifts of food, dress in costumes and have a celebratory seudah, a meal with bread, meat, and wine. Among other traditions, we give matanos l’evyonim, gifts to the poor. The whole month of Adar is considered a time of joy.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. CC BY 2.5, File:2 Mishloach Manot.jpg, Uploaded by Yoninah, Uploaded: March 21, 2006.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. CC BY 2.5, File:2 Mishloach Manot.jpg, Uploaded by Yoninah, Uploaded: March 21, 2006.

So when you see a whole bunch of people in costume carrying baskets of food, and singing and dancing in the streets come Thursday, March 17th, you now know why. Wish them a freilichen Purim and remember to put Haman’s name on the bottom of your shoe so we can symbolically stamp out unfounded hatred for all generations to come.

Happy Purim!

All information in this post came from my own knowledge of the story of Purim. For more information, visit Encyclopaedia Judaica’s entry on Purim

or take a look at some of the books in our collection about this holiday:

Purim and the Persian Empire: a historical, archaeological, & geographical perspective / Yehuda Landy

The Purim anthology / Philip Goodman

Purim, or the Feast of Esther: a historical study / by N.S. Doniach

Purim = [Purim]: Purim, its observance and significance: a presentation based on Talmudic and traditional sources / compiled by Avie Gold ; overview by Nosson Scherman

Contributed by Toby Krausz, Judaica Librarian.