Israel is at the heart of a series of community events taking place from May 8 through 15, two at the YM-YWHA of Union County, the others at the JCC of Central New Jersey.
They range from the intensely emotional program on Sunday at the YM-YWHA in Union to mark Yom Hazikaron, honoring Israel’s fallen, to an interactive program at the Scotch Plains JCC about the Israel Defense Forces, to an even more active Israeli dance class.
Those involved include members of the Israeli Club of Springfield, members and staff of the JCC, and visiting performers. Coordinating it all is Abir Maliyanker, the community’s Israeli emissary.
Randi Zucker, director of the JCC’s federation-sponsored J Connection, which brings together area synagogues and other Jewish organizations, is working with Maliyanker. “We’re so excited to offer such a comprehensive and diverse week of community celebrations in honor of Israel’s birthday,” she said.
Gila Dishy and Anat Torovezky of the Israeli Club said more people than ever have come on board for their events at the Y, and they hope the local community responds with equal enthusiasm.
For Orit Kirschner of Springfield, who moved here from Israel three years ago, the week of Israel-oriented community events has already brought her closer to her home country.
As part of the Yom Hazikaron program honoring Israel’s fallen at the Union YM-YWHA on May 8, she is scheduled to read an essay about Miriam Peretz, who lost two soldier sons. Kirschner is to read about Eliraz, Peretz’s second son.
Though she has been involved with the Israeli Club before, this is the first time Kirschner has taken part in the planning.
She told NJ Jewish News that the commemoration carries personal pain. A cousin of hers, Yehuda Basel, a soldier, was killed in 2006 — in the first effort to rescue Gilad Shalit, the Israeli corporal kidnapped by militants in Gaza and held hostage ever since. “It’s very painful to see the programs about Gilad,” she said.
She received a major surprise this week while researching material about her cousin. She came upon a video about his army service, and wrote in an e-mail to NJJN: “Suddenly I saw Eliraz Peretz [z”l] speaking about my cousin Udi and I was shocked to discover that he was his commander in the Golani,” an elite infantry brigade.