Given how passionately people in the Central community support Israel, they should also share in its two most important anniversaries, said Yisca Shalev. The 24-year-old emissary from Israel, following in the footsteps of her three predecessors, has helped create two events next week designed to give them a taste of what makes those days so special.
Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, will be observed on Sunday evening, April 18, at the YM-YWHA of Union County, with prayers, a candle-lighting and flag ceremony, music, and a multi-media look at the lives of four of the country’s fallen soldiers.
Two days later, on April 20, also at the Y, Yom Ha’atzmaut — Israel’s Independence Day — will be celebrated in festive style — with music by Sandy Shmuely, children’s activities, Israeli foods and merchandise, and, of course, a giant birthday cake to mark the country’s 62nd birthday. There will also be performances by the choir of the Jewish Educational Center’s Yeshiva and local religious schools.
“So many people in this community care about Israel,” Shalev said, “and these are days when Jews here can have this connection with Israel” — in both its sorrow and its vitality.
Both events are cosponsored by the Y and the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey; the Halpern family has provided additional funding for the Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration.
Shalev is organizing the commemoration and the celebration together with members of the Israeli Club of Springfield. As they have done for the past few years, Anat Torovesky and Gila Dishy, two of the leaders of the 150-member organization, have been teaching songs to children and gently coaching them through the reading of stories about Israelis who died for their country.
In Israel, the two days follow one another; that wasn’t possible to organize locally, Shalev said, but she is hoping to replicate some of the feeling she grew up with.
Ushering in Yom Hazikaron in Israel, which pays tribute to the country’s fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism, “from the moment the siren sounds in the night, we are crying all day until the next night,” Shalev said. “Even if you haven’t lost someone in your own family, we all have so many stories. Everyone knows people who have died. On the street where my family lives, every alternate home has lost someone. We cry together.
“And then the day ends, and we turn to celebrating what we have. I think you have to feel that sadness to really feel the happiness.”