For the past 18 years, Riverdale Temple has produced a purimspiel written by me every Purim. When I retired in 2013, I looked up the websites of all the temples in the Union of Reform Judaism database, and found that at least 300, a third of the congregations, had a purimspiel. In some states the percentage was higher. A follow-up questionnaire received 270 responses, and 230 sent back their questionnaires. An analysis of the questionnaire responses established that the largest number of synagogues, ninety [39%] gave answers emphasizing community building as the principle benefit. Several synagogues reported that their largest attendance, excepting the high holidays, is on Purim, as it is at Riverdale Temple.
Given the importance of purimspiels to the Jewish community, I decided to study them and began collecting them. Developing a reference archive of purimspiel collections would provide a valuable resource to both congregations who seek to enrich how they serve their communities and to historians of Jewish customs and practices regarding the holiday of Purim.
In 2014 in the Stettenheim Library at Temple Emanuel in New York, I found more than 35 plays, many of them rare. The Dorot Library and the American Jewish Archives also have large collections. I still need to investigate collections in Amherst, YIVO, and regional archives. Many of the plays were published without dates, so in addition to the pleasure of reading these entertaining works, the puzzle of arranging them in chronological order presents an entertaining challenge.
Updates to follow as progress is made.