In a couple of weeks, international Jewry will celebrate a major milestone — the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding.
This year, Yom Ha’atzmaut, or Israel’s independence day, starts on the evening of April 18 and ends the following night. Special celebrations will be held in the Jewish state, around the world and across the United States. Charm City is no exception, with a series of gatherings to be promoted by the Baltimore Israel Coalition.
“The BIC is comprised of numerous organizations throughout Baltimore that support Israel-related programming throughout the community,” said Zahava Klein, director of Israel and Jewish advocacy for the Baltimore Jewish Council and staffer of the BIC.
The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore views this year’s special Yom Ha’atzmaut milestone as a way to explore the culture, history and future of Israel. It’s also a vehicle to bring the community together.
“Israel is a part of the fabric of The Associated, and as we reach this milestone – 70 years of a Jewish state – we have collective reason to celebrate,” said Marc B. Terrill, president of The Associated. “We have been there during times of distress and celebration with countless Baltimore Jews throughout The Associated system of agencies who continue to demonstrate their commitment, passion and support of our family across the seas. ”
With a series of monthly seminars and lectures throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area and its contiguous counties, the Maryland/Israel Development Center is raising awareness of Israeli businesses that have headquarters in the state. Klein said that these gatherings are largely to showcase Israeli companies based in Maryland and for professionals looking for grant opportunities in the future. (For information about MIDC events, visit marylandisrael.org.)
On April 17 at 7:30 p.m., in honor of Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s memorial day, Beth Tfiloh Dahan Congregation and Community School in Pikesville will hold a seminar on American foreign policy and Israel’s future. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) will moderate the gathering, and speakers will include Bret Stephens, contributing columnist for the New York Times, and Jeffrey Goldberg, editor-in-chief of The Atlantic.
The following day at Beth Tfiloh at 7 p.m., Gov. Larry Hogan will join the congregation and Jewish community at large in celebrating Yom Ha’atmaut. Twenty-three synagogues and Jewish organizations will participate in the event, which will include a fireworks display, a performance by the Jewish rock band SoulFarm, food, games, crafts, a photo exhibit, wine-tasting and other activities.
Other “Israel@70” events include the “Springtime Passover Family Farm Festival” at the Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center in Reisterstown on April 8. There will be myriad activities at the gathering, including those featuring sports, animals, arts and crafts and other special activities to celebrate the anniversary.
“It is celebrating springtime,” Klein said. “It is very focused on families and kids. It is very hands-on.”
During the William and Irene Weinberg Family Baltimore Jewish Film Festival, the 2016 film “Ben-Gurion, Epilogue,” a documentary consisting of interviews conducted five years before Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s death in 1973, will be screened at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts in Owings Mills. The Israeli statesman’s grandson, Alon Ben-Gurion, will speak after the presentation of the film.
From April 20-22, the Reform Jewish synagogues of Baltimore will hold the Hoffberger Foundation for Torah Studies Scholar-in-Residence Weekend with Rabbi David B. Ruderman, a professor of modern Jewish history at the University of Pennsylvania, in honor of Israel’s 70th anniversary
Rabbi Ruderman will present four lectures. His fourth and final lecture, “Debate: What Israel Stands For,” will discuss Zionist thinkers Achad Ha-Am, Jacob Klatzkin and Louis Brandeis and their visions of a Jewish state. The event is presented by the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation Brotherhood group. (To learn more, call 410-764-1587.)
On May 6, from 1-5 p.m., the Jewish Federation of Howard County will hold its “Israel at 70 Festival,” featuring live performances by The Highlights (Molly Krief and Saar Gez), a DJ, Israeli dancing, and synagogue choirs and dance troupes. The community-wide festival will be held on the lawn behind Temple Isaiah, 12200 Scaggsville Road, in Fulton. Activities will include an official ceremony in honor of Israel’s 70th birthday; Israeli food, dance and crafts; an Israeli beer and wine-tasting booth, a moon bounce; face-painting; an army training obstacle course; and more. There will also be special booths like the “Kotel Experience,” where people can leave notes in a Western Wall model which will eventually be brought to the real Kotel in Jerusalem. Entry to the festival is free, but food and activities are cash-only. For information, visit JewishHowardCounty.org/IsraelAt70.
On May 8, the BIC, the BJC and The Associated will present “Israel, BDS and Anti-Semitism: Using the Words that Work” by Dr. Frank Luntz, a political consultant, public relations expert and pollster. The talk from 5-7 p.m. will be held at Temple Oheb Shalom, 7310 Park Heights Ave., in the Blaustein Auditorium.
On June 3, the annual community-wide block party at the Owings Mills Jewish Community Center, 3506 Gwynnbrook Ave., will feature Israel-themed events, activities and booths throughout the event.
While Israel-related programming has been planned up through June, Klein said that more are in the works and will be promoted as more information becomes available.
“I think it is really great that these organizations are building their events around Israel’s 70th anniversary,” she said. “We hope that the community will come out and support these organization by taking part.”
In addition, the BIC will hold a student “Israel at 70” essay contest. Participants are asked to write about what they consider to be Israel’s greatest contribution to the world over the past seven decades.
The age range for the contest is fifth grade students to 25-year-olds. Submissions are due electronically and will be accepted no later than April 18, to be judged by BIC members, Jmore editors and other community members.
Awards will include $180 Israel Bonds and the publication of their essay in Jmore. For information, visit baltimoreisraelcoalition.org/israel70.
For information about local “Israel at 70” events, visit baltimoreisraelcoalition.org/coalition-calendar.
Jordan Loux is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.