In 1948, despite all odds, Israel became a state. Fast forward 75 years, the Jewish homeland has become a central hub of history, culture and innovation. In commemoration of this major milestone, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia is hosting four exciting, area-wide events: a Community Mitzvah Day, Shabbat Gatherings, a Taste of Israel Festival and an Israel 75 Mission.
“Even when not physically being in Israel, the Jewish people have an intrinsic connection to the Land of Israel,” said Jeffrey Lasday, the Jewish Federation’s senior chief of external affairs. “When we celebrate Israel 75 in Greater Philadelphia, we are celebrating our historic connection to our Jewish homeland, the amazing accomplishments of a country that is only 75 years young, and the promise and possibilities of the future.”
One way that local community members can help shape “the promise and possibilities of the future” is with Community Mitzvah Day, a day of good deeds and giving back. On April 23, there will be over 25 hands-on volunteer opportunities offered by organizations throughout the Greater Philadelphia area, in collaboration with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s neighborhood Kehillot, for people of all ages and abilities. Each volunteer project focuses on one or more of the following seven interest areas: social justice, food insecurity, poverty, older adults, conservation and restoration, arts and culture and lone soldiers.
“All of the celebrations are representative of each of the ways that we build community,” explained Gail Norry, board co-chair of the Jewish Federation. “These are amazing opportunities to reconnect after the nationwide lockdown and bring more people closer to the work of the Jewish Federation and to each other.”
This sense of reconnection will surely be felt on April 28-29, when community members are invited to attend various Shabbat Gatherings with their families and friends. There are three ways to participate in a Shabbat Gathering: attend a public Community Shabbat Experience – led by local synagogues, organizations, and schools with the Jewish Federation’s neighborhood Kehillot – host a private Shabbat Gathering in one’s own home, or, for those ages 20 – 40, join a young adult Shabbat Gathering in partnership with OneTable.
“I am so proud that we are going to be able to celebrate this major milestone, and all that it symbolizes, within Greater Philadelphia,” expressed Margie Honickman, Israel 75 event co-chair. “Israel is more than a geographical location, it is a peoplehood and a testament to Jewish perseverance.”
Exploring this deeper understanding of Israel is the goal of the Taste of Israel Festival on May 7, which aims to showcase Israeli culture through the history of the country’s cuisine. The afternoon at the Saligman Campus will include a tasting area and cooking demonstrations by five-time James Beard Foundation Award-Winning Chef Michael Solomonov and other top local chefs, a number of food and craft vendors, performances by the renowned male a cappella group Six13, and plenty of family-friendly activities.
All food that is prepared and presented by Michael Solomonov and other vendors in the main demonstration tent will be under the supervision of Keystone-K Community Kashrus of Greater Philadelphia and certified as Glatt kosher. Food provided by other vendors outside of the main demo tent will be clearly marked indicating their level of dietary observance.
“The Greater Philadelphia Jewish community is one of the strongest in America,” noted Tamar Silberberg Shiffman, Israel 75 event co-chair. “We have faced challenges and now have the opportunity to celebrate and travel to Israel. It is time to show our strength.”
Over 150 community members will demonstrate that strength by traveling to Israel from May 14-21. A meaningful, eight-day trip, the Israel 75 Mission features four personalized tracks to guide their journeys in the Jewish homeland: adventure, food, wine and culture, tech and business, and people, places and politics.
“I’m excited to honor Israel’s achievements and get to know more of our local community members at these festivities,” said David Adelman, Jewish Federation board co-chair. “Whether you’re looking to strengthen your sense of community, show your pride for Israel or learn something new about the Jewish state, there’s a way for every person and their family to participate in these celebrations.”
To learn more about Israel 75, click here.