It was a bit unnerving when the campus police held a special assembly and asked all the Jewish students to attend. A pogrom?
This could have happened anywhere in the USA. In fact, it was in Florida. It was the 1980's. I am a political activist and I'm always at risk of going to jail.
One thing we’re raised with – do not go gently...
Why did the police want to talk to us? It was nearly time for Purim, the festival of victory over hatred and jealousy, described in the Book of Esther. A Jewish leader named Mordechai had saved the King and now the King’s Prime Minister, Haman, wanted Mordecai and all the Jews killed.
Mordechai learned of this terrible plot and asked the Queen, his niece Esther, to prevail upon her husband to prevent this slaughter. Getting to see the King was quite a trick because he was not a rational man. He’d had his previous queen executed after she refused to dance naked in front of a bunch of his drunken friends. Then he held a year-long beauty contest to pick his next wife. And now he was ignoring her.
Esther fasted for three days, and the King agreed to see her.
She convinced him to honor Mordechai instead of killing all the Jews. As I said, victory, not that Mordechai particularly wanted to be honored. The King's idea of how to honor him was a silly parade throughout the capital city.
I had already bought a tub of ground poppy seeds and was looking forward to biting into Haman’s black heart, which is what the cookies symbolize.
In honor of Purim, the festival of victory, we make triangular cookies with poppy-seed filling. I like to make a vanilla butter cookie dough and cut circles with a round cookie cutter. Then I put a spoonful of poppy seeds in the middle and pinch the circle into a tri-cornered hat, nearly encasing the poppy seeds.
I attended the assembly. Most of us sat near the doors, ready to escape. The police were there to warn us. They knew we’d be eating poppy seeds. They wanted to inform us of our rights: Demand a Hair test. A urine or blood test will show positive for opium. Only a hair test can show that we really ate legal harmless poppy seeds.
There is a drawback. A hair test will show your last seven years of drug use. Be ready for that – but the police will only prosecute current infractions like driving while on opiates. Poppy seeds can cause a drug test to be positive for opiates for a month after ingestion. This is true even if you only eat a poppyseed bagel.
Consider yourself warned. Demand a hair test if you eat poppy seeds at all.