JCC plans Israel holiday celebrations

Kristi Foster
At last year’s Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) at the Jewish Community Center, singer Tal Sondak performs. This year, the JCC welcomes musician Pini Cohen and his band to the community celebration, set for Monday, May 9. File photo: Kristi Foster

By David Baugher, Special to the Jewish Light

Remembrance followed by celebration will once again be the guiding themes of this year’s observance of Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut.

“You can’t really have one without the other,” said Rabbi Brad Horwitz, director of the Helene Mirowitz Center for Jewish Community Life, which is coordinating the events at the Jewish Community Center’s Staenberg Complex. “In Israel, it was intentional that when the Yom Hazikaron was over, the sadness and mourning that was accompanied by that day turns to festivities. For the sacrifice that those soldiers went through to defend the State of Israel, we show appreciation the next moment by celebrating Israel.”

The dual observations, set to begin 7 p.m. May 8 with an hour-long ceremony, is expected to attract about 400 to 500 people.

“I’m continually moved by the seriousness of the ceremony, the reverence and respect that’s paid to the families of those who have lost loved ones fighting wars for Israel or through terror incidents,” Horwitz said. “Each year, the ceremony ends and you are left with a feeling of appreciation for those who have defended Israel on behalf of Jews all over the world.”

He said that details of the schedule are still being worked out but songs and readings as well as a video presentation are likely to be on the agenda. Horwitz said past videos have shown imagery of soldiers as well as the observance of the event in Israel, where sirens blow for two minutes to mark the occasion and people stop their vehicles, get out and stand at attention.

“We show a video of that so people can see what it’s like because if you’ve never been there at this time, you haven’t had that experience,” he said.

The following evening, doors open at 6 p.m., shortly before a brief ceremony to close Yom Hazikaron. Area day school children may also do a performance. At 7 p.m., festivities begin for Israeli Independence Day. Food, including kosher falafels, will be available and participants will be treated to activities for children and artist and vendor booths. Musician Pini Cohen and his band will provide entertainment.

“It will be a very interactive presentation,” Horwitz said. “It’s not just going to be sitting and watching a performance but he’s going to try to get everybody up and dancing. It will be very festive with everybody involved. It should be a lot of fun.”

The program will close with a fireworks display at 8:30 p.m.

Creve Coeur resident Tali Stadler is looking forward to the two holidays. As an Israeli who moved here 17 years ago, both events mean a great deal to her.

“The big difference between here and Israel is that in Israel, everyone goes into the army,” said Stadler, who plans the local Yom Hazikaron and serves on the Yom Ha’atzmaut committee. “In every family, you will find soldiers who died during the wars or in acts of terror.”

Stadler, founder of the area’s Israel House at Temple Israel, served in the infantry in the Jewish State. She said the local event will help to connect her and others to Israel since they will be observing the same holidays.

“Almost every citizen in Israel will go to the ceremonies and the day after will go to the military cemeteries,” she said. “The siren blows at 11 o’clock.”

Stadler said the observance affects the whole nation. Even television doesn’t run commercials.

“It’s all about Memorial Day,” she said. “Here we do it with exactly the same spirit as in Israel.”

All events are free and open to the public though charges will apply for food. Horwitz said organizers are grateful to the Lubin Green Foundation for helping to support the effort financially.

For more information, contact the JCC at 314-432-5700.