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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


 

May 9, 2014  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

Pinellas celebrates Israel’s 66th birthday


The social hall at Congregation B’nai Israel was the hub for the Yom Ha’Atzmaut festivities. The social hall at Congregation B’nai Israel was the hub for the Yom Ha’Atzmaut festivities. About 300 people turned out on a sunny Sunday, May 4, to enjoy falafel, ride camels, dance, sing, play games and celebrate the 66th birthday of the state of Israel.

The event was held at Congregation B’nai Israel in St. Petersburg and drew members of the Jewish community from throughout the county.

“This is our first year taking over the operations of the JCC Suncoast,” said Mark Segel, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties. We are so pleased that the community Israel Independence Day celebration was such a success. The planning committee and all the volunteers really came together to create an excellent experience for all who came. We look forward to continuing and improving JCC Suncoast programming in the months and years ahead.”


Margot Benstock shows her Israeli spirit Margot Benstock shows her Israeli spirit Save for the food and henna tattooing, everything was free.

While adults socialized, danced, noshed, gave thanks for the existence of Israel and prayed for its continued strength, the kids had myriad opportunities for fun.

In addition to a bounce house and inflatable climb and slide, outdoor activities included camel rides and a chance to soak Segel in a dunk tank.

It was a good thing the water temperature was, in Segel’s words, “just right,” because he seemed to spend more time in the water than on his perch.

There were also face painting artists for the kids and at many booths, activities for children to make bead necklaces, a Star of David with colored sand, create their own “dog tags” or put together a scented bath salt gift they could present to moms on Mother’s Day.


Meira Weizman, 7, colors a Chagall window at the Hadassah booth. Meira Weizman, 7, colors a Chagall window at the Hadassah booth. Other booths offered chances to color Chagall stained glass windows, get a Star of David painted on fingernails, or make crafty creations – all with an Israeli connection. One booth offered folks of all ages an opportunity to write letters to IDF soldiers or to write messages to be delivered to the Western Wall.

Many Jewish congregations and other organizations offered information and gifts at their booths, and for much of the celebration, Israeli music was playing and a group of folks danced.

The biggest draw was the camel rides. Now established as an annual highlight of the event, families came from across the Tampa Bay area for the chance to travel as Jews did in the desert years ago.

Guests at the event commented that they were excited to see so many Jewish organizations participating to create a true community based event. Each of the 15 organizations and congregations represented at the celebration were asked to create an activity that represented a geographic or cultural highlight in Israel or a Jewish value.


(L-R) cousins Rachel LeVine and Danielle LeVine show off their painted faces. (L-R) cousins Rachel LeVine and Danielle LeVine show off their painted faces. Rabbis from across the county attended including Rabbi Leah Herz, Rabbi Gary Klein, Rabbi Alter Korf, Rabbi Jacob Luski, Rabbi Michael Torop, Rabbi Danielle

Upbin, Rabbi Daniel Treiser and Rabbi David Weissman. Cantor Jonathan Schultz led the crowd in Ha’Tikvah, the Israeli national anthem, and a sing-a-long of Israeli songs and Rabbi Treiser recognized those in attendance who had served in the IDF, followed by a moment of remembrance for those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Dr. David LeVine led Israel dance lessons for the young and young at heart.


Jacob Gottfried, 11, of Belleair Beach rides a camel during the festivities. Jacob Gottfried, 11, of Belleair Beach rides a camel during the festivities. Michael Halprin of Fun Conspiracy volunteered to take photos of people in front of a green screen so they could have keepsakes of themselves in an F-15 fighter jet, swimming in Ein Gedi, at the Western Wall or posing with IDF soldiers on Masada.

Joel Goetz of Jo-El’s Delicatessen & Marketplace manned his hot dog cart, selling kosher dogs and knishes while Meze 119 restaurant offered falafels and other tasty food on a pay-what-you-choose basis with the proceeds going to Congregation B’nai Israel.



There was nearly nonstop Israeli dancing. 
Photos byBob Fryer,Mike Frye andElana Gootson There was nearly nonstop Israeli dancing. Photos byBob Fryer,Mike Frye andElana Gootson

Jewish Federation Executive Director Mark Segel got soaked repeatedly in the dunk tank. Jewish Federation Executive Director Mark Segel got soaked repeatedly in the dunk tank.

Shireen Isakson, 7, of St. Petersburg, displays her fingernails, painted with Stars of David. Shireen Isakson, 7, of St. Petersburg, displays her fingernails, painted with Stars of David.

Benny Labinger, 2, of St. Petersburg, plays with hand clappers from the Jewish Press. Benny Labinger, 2, of St. Petersburg, plays with hand clappers from the Jewish Press.

Evan Gootson, 4, holds still to get his face painted by Angela Clark. Evan Gootson, 4, holds still to get his face painted by Angela Clark.

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