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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 19, 2017  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

Celebrating 69 years of Israel’s Independence

Hundreds gather to celebrate 69 years of Israeli freedom
By JAMIE SHAPIRO Jewish Press

Children sang in a call for peace, rabbis and others representing the community participated in a candle-lighting ceremony, and both children and adults rode camels and danced to Israeli music. It all happened as hundreds gathered Sunday, May 7, to mark the 69th anniversary of Israel’s independence.

The larger than expected crowd of approximately 400 participated in a variety of activities to commemorate Israel’s birthday at the celebration, sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco County. The celebration was hosted by Congregation B’nai Israel in St. Petersburg.

Children from congregations across Pinellas County gathered together, after practicing separately for weeks, to sing as one group in celebration of independence. The group, consisting of more than 20 local children, performed four songs with Cantor Jonathan Schultz of Congregation B’nai Israel. The final song was a call for peace between Israel and its neighbors.


Making Negev necklaces at one of the craft tables. Making Negev necklaces at one of the craft tables. Participants were offered a lunch compliments of the Federation of either a hot dog or falafel (which quickly sold out), catered by Jo-El’s Marketplace and Delicatessen.

There was an array of outdoor activities, ranging from bounce houses to camel rides. Children ran between the synagogue building and the outdoor activity area to explore the American Friends of Magen David Adom ambulance or test their skills digging in a sandbox for archeological treasures.

For Randell Weinberg, a paramedic and ambulance tour guide for the day, the event was inspiring for a number of reasons.

“It’s great to see the local Jewish communities come out and show their support for Israel,” he said. Having spent five months in Jerusalem as an EMT, Weinberg is passionate about raising awareness for Israel and his emergency response brothers.

Rabbi Leah Herz (L) representing Menorah Manor and Inn on the Pond, with the assistance of the Federation’s Maxine Kaufman, lights a candle as part of the event’s “torch lighting.“Rabbi Leah Herz (L) representing Menorah Manor and Inn on the Pond, with the assistance of the Federation’s Maxine Kaufman, lights a candle as part of the event’s “torch lighting.“
The afternoon also included a film celebrating a great Israeli victory, not on the battlefield but a basketball court.

For members of the community, the celebration of Israeli freedom was much more than just a festival. To Maureen Sechan, the director of lifelong learning at Congregation B’nai Israel and a relatively new member of the Tampa Bay area’s Jewish community, the turnout at the event was great, pulling Jews from around the area, from as far away as Tarpon Springs and Lutz.

Coming from Chicago, a city with a much denser Jewish population, Sechan wasn’t accustomed to being a part of such a spread out community, so seeing so many come together to celebrate Israel’s independence was a joyful experience.


Gilead Melamed finds a treasure at the "archelogical dig" Gilead Melamed finds a treasure at the "archelogical dig" “In order to have a richer Jewish experience, I see a lot of families doing a lot with all the different congregations and federation,” Sechan said. “I hope that that just continues.”

On the front page

Clockwise from top right: Simon Chapiro sports his Israeli pride at the celebration; Sharon Goetz serves falafels to hungry guests; Brooke Sherman and mom Melissa Wahlberg take a camel ride; and Cantor Jonathan Schultz leads a combined chorus of children from congregations througout Pinellas County.



Children and adults danced to Israeli music. Children and adults danced to Israeli music.

Meira Weizman flies high on the bungee jump. Meira Weizman flies high on the bungee jump.

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