2018-05-09 / Voice at the Shore

The Shore celebrates the achievement— and honors the sacrifices—of Israel@70

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER
Voice shore editor


Lighting candles commemorating those killed in wars and acts of terror against Israel were (from left), Jordan Posner, Jewish Federation’s Rachel Waldman, and IDF veterans Iris Harari, Yehuda Cohen, and Yechiel Lehavy. Lighting candles commemorating those killed in wars and acts of terror against Israel were (from left), Jordan Posner, Jewish Federation’s Rachel Waldman, and IDF veterans Iris Harari, Yehuda Cohen, and Yechiel Lehavy. It was a night of remembrance and celebration. More than 150 Jewish community members gathered on April 18 at the JCC auditorium, which was magically transformed by a sea of Israeli flags and blue and white balloons, for a joyous and boisterous community-wide Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration to mark Israel’s 70th birthday.

The celebration, which featured a traditional Israeli buffet, music, and a highly entertaining game of Israeli Quizzo, followed a somber and emotional observance of Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day.

As Rabbi David Weis explained to those assembled, the Knesset designated the day just before Yom Ha’atzmaut as Israel’s version of Memorial Day, known as “Yom HaZikaron,” to honor the 23,645 men and women who lost their lives defending Israel since it became a state. Holding this day of remembrance just before Yom Ha’atzmaut “reminds everyone of the sacrifice that enables the celebration,” Weis explained.

In Israel, he added, Yom HaZikaron is a solemn day in which the Israeli flag stands at half-mast. The observance begins with ceremony at the Kotel and the sounding of a siren. “When the siren goes off, marking the beginning of the Memorial Day, cars stop and everyone gets out of their cars to observe a moment of silence.” All entertainment places are closed, and many remembrance services are held throughout the day.

Locally, the combined observance of Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut served as “a reminder that life is lived in cycles—of sadness and joy,” said Judy Galler, Israel@70 committee co-chair, one of the planners of the evening’s program, who welcomed everyone to the event along with co-chairs Sheila Friedman and Miriam Hirsch.

For all 70 years of Israel’s existence, noted Friedman, “Israel has had to fight for her survival.” In that fight failure is not an option, added Hirsch. “Six million Jews were murdered in death camps because there was no Israel,” she stressed.

Friedman, who read the poem “A Bridge of Peace,” by Ada Aharoni, also beautifully expressed the longing for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. “Let us build a sturdy bridge,” she read. “We do not want to make each other afraid under our vines and fig trees, blossoming on a silvered horizon, above the bruising and the bleeding of poisoned gases and scuds.”

As in Israel, the Yom HaZikaron observance at the JCC included the sounding of a siren followed by a moment of silence. This was in turn followed by a candle-lighting ceremony to remember Israelis who lost their lives in wars and acts of terror. Candles were lit by several Israeli veterans living locally, including Yechiel Lehavy, a veteran of Israel’s War of Independence; Yehuda Cohen, who served in the IDF just prior to the Six-Day War; and Iris Harari, who served during the Yom Kippur War. Cohen and Harari also led prayers for the IDF and for the State of Israel.

The somber remembrance of those who lost their lives for the Israeli state was followed by an upbeat remembrance of Israel’s history, highlighted through a video featuring a timeline of Israel’s most important milestones. The Jewish Federation’s former Israel Director, Yuval Shefi, who now lives in Israel, created the film.

The evening grew into a boisterous party as attendees enjoyed spirited music, delicious Israeli cuisine, and numerous rounds of “Quizzo,” a popular trivia game played in pubs and restaurants for prizes, led by Jordan Posner. In keeping with Yom Ha’atzmaut, all Quizzo questions were about Israeli history, politics and culture.

Teams (with names like “The Young Grandparents”) battled it out for the grand prize: A free trip to Israel on the Jewish Federation’s Israel@70 Mission, October 17-25, 2018. The Mission will explore the best of ancient and modern Israel, exposing participants to a diversity of Israeli and Jewish leaders, scholars and innovators.

Susan Beirig Keidjan ended up as the lucky winner. After sweeping the Quizzo competition, her team chose her to attend the Israel@70 Mission.

According to Kirk Wisemayer, executive director of Jewish Federation of Atlantic & Cape May Counties, several more events will be held this year to celebrate Israel’s 70th birthday. The Israel@70 Committee, which planned the community Yom HaZikaron observance and Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration at the JCC, is currently hard at work on these events.

Members of that committee include Gila Azran, Robert Bishop, Shelley Cohen, Yehuda Cohen, Iris Harari, Yechiel Lehavy, Rabbi Yaakov Orimland, Moshe Shinar and Nadine Winkelstein, along with co-chairs Judy Galler, Sheila Friedman and Miriam Hirsch. 

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