The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and its Center for Israel and Overseas will be hosting their annual Israel Independence Day community celebration on Sunday, May 6, from noon to 5 p.m. This year the event will be held at the Horticulture Center in Fairmount Park in a garden setting amid trees, flowers and reflecting pools.
The event will kick off with the sound of 59 shofars being blown, each one representing a year in Israel's history. Volunteers from area synagogues will participate, led by Rabbi David Gutterman, Federation rabbi and executive director of the VAAD: Board of Rabbis.
"A community-wide celebration, such as Yom Ha'Atzmaut -- Israel 59," said Jerilyn Zimmerman, director of Federation's Center for Israel and Overseas, "is a tremendous cultural opportunity to promote identification with and express community support for the State of Israel."
One way that synagogues and community organizations will be showing their support for Israel is in the creation of banners expressing the theme of "Israel 59 -- Israel in Our Hearts." These banners will be displayed at the event, giving these groups the opportunity to share their love of Israel. Any synagogue or organization wishing to participate and receive a blank vinyl banner is asked to call Donna Levinson at 215-832-0550, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .
"We need to stand up and show the world our support for Israel," said Cindy Smukler Dorani, co-chair of the Center for Israel and Overseas Board. "What is great about this event is that it brings people together from across the community, from the different organizations and synagogues, to do just that."
Last year, Federation's Yom Ha'Atzmaut celebration drew over 6,500 participants, according to Beth Razin, Center for Israel and Overseas associate. "We're hoping to build on last year's success, and serve as a springboard for other Federation Israel-related activities," she said. "We've expanded the program and hope to keep the momentum of support going and draw an even larger crowd."
Expanding on the success of its debut last year, ShopRite will again be hoisting its large "Taste of Israel" tent at this year's event. Inside the tent, ShopRite chefs will give innovative kosher Israeli cooking demonstrations and event-goers will have the opportunity to sample food products and enjoy plenty of edible giveaways. In addition to food sampling, the event will host, for the first time, an Israeli wine cellar showcasing some of Israel's superlative wines and wineries. Attendees 21 years and older will be invited to sample some of the vintages on display.
Shop-a-holics with a love for Israeli products will be able to stroll through Safed's artist colony marketplace and purchase Israeli-made Judaica, jewelry, paintings, photography, three-dimensional computer art, glass, weavings and much more.
A live music concert will feature leading Israeli jazz ensemble Seeds of Sun, known for blending music written in Israel in a jazz and world-music setting. The band has played on prestigious stages, such as the Kennedy Center in Washington and the 92nd Street Y in New York, and has traveled widely introducing a new sound of Israel to the world.
Teenagers will enjoy their own space at the event, Sababah city, which will host activities including karaoke, a dunk tank and inflatable sumo wrestling and human foosball. For children, there will be the Kid's Fun Zone which will feature giant inflatables, arts-and-crafts activities, and the ever-popular camel rides. Plus, this year, photographs of kids atop the camels will be available. Also, look out for jugglers, a balloon artist and historical Israeli characters David Ben-Gurion, Theodor Herzl and Ilan Ramon.
Corporate sponsors for "Israel 59 -- Israel in our Hearts" are ShopRite, Blank Rome LLP, the Jewish Exponent, Boscov's, JDate, the Fairmount Park Commission and Keystone Motors Volvo-Suzuki.
The festival is free, but participants must register online before the event, or at the event upon arrival. For more information, log on to: www.JewishPhilly.org/israel59  or call 215-832-0630.