A family-friendly festival to honor Israel is the centerpiece of a four-part program made possible by a $2,800 grant from the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism to a Lawrenceville temple.
Congregation Adath Israel was one of 26 Conservative congregations to receive the Ma’alot initiative grant, designed to promote Israel programming in congregations throughout the country.
The synagogue’s Israel Festival will take place Sunday, Feb. 13, featuring Israeli music, Middle Eastern food demonstrations, and crafts for kids. Raslan Abu Rukun, deputy consul general of Israel in Philadelphia, will attend the free event, which is expected to attract about 150 people.
The series will kick off the night before the festival, with a program geared toward teens. The film Cast a Giant Shadow will be screened; made in 1966, it stars Kirk Douglas as Col. Mickey Marcus, an American who commanded units of the fledgling Israeli defense forces during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
The third program in the series will be a presentation by Rabbi Yoav Ende, spiritual leader of Kibbutz Hanaton in the Lower Galilee. Ende will discuss the Conservative movement kibbutz’s efforts to promote pluralism and Arab-Jewish relations.
The series will conclude in the spring with a presentation by Hillel Zaremba about how Israel is portrayed in the media. Zaremba is associate director of Islamist Watch and assistant editor of the Middle East Quarterly.
Adath Israel’s Rabbi Daniel Grossman said the series is aimed at bringing “continuity” to its Israel programming.
“We started talking about Israel during the High Holy Days and followed up with this four-part program on Israel, a large congregational delegation to AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] convention this spring, and a 12-day trip to Israel this summer. People put a lot of time and effort into a single program as if that one afternoon or evening is going to change things. Our aim is to take a focus and present it over the course of a year or more, so it develops and continues to have legs.”
Focus on youth
With a focus on teens, college students, and young adults, the Israel Festival will be open to the general community and will feature booths dispensing information on study and travel programs in Israel and purveying Israeli products.
Jonathan Miller of Titusville and Seth Park of Lawrenceville, congregation members and board vice presidents, have teamed up to cochair the Israel Festival.
“We are working hard to create a fun, family-friendly event that will appeal to both Jews and non-Jews,” Miller said. “We hope to strengthen awareness in the community of Israel as the living and vibrant homeland of the Jewish people. We are especially reaching out to college students and teens, because they are the future of our community, as torchbearers of our positive relationship with Israel.”
The synagogue will share the program information it develops with other USCJ congregations to enable them to bring similar programming to their communities. Director of congregational learning Hedda Morton is overseeing the program.
Prior to this grant, Adath Israel was the recipient of Solomon Schechter Gold Awards for excellence in programming in Celebrations and Dedications (Torah Project), Inclusion of Individuals with Disabilities (Resource Center), and Publications (e-newsletter for families with children with special needs).