Israel Turns 70

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by Sue Cullen

The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee (JFSM) is planning season-long celebrations to mark a historic event, Israel’s 70th anniversary of statehood. israel

Israeli arts and culture, music, food, diversity and more will be highlighted with 20 celebratory events, including an authentic Israeli shuk, or marketplace, a dinner with celebrity chef Einat Admony, and a family-friendly birthday party.

“The public will have the opportunity to experience Israel here in the Sarasota-Manatee region through close encounters with music, food, film, lectures, art and more,” says Howard Tevlowitz, JFSM’s Executive Director. “With our partnerships with synagogues and other nonprofits, we will expand the celebration to include as many people as possible.”

The Israel@70 events represent months of work by co-chairs Rosann Black and Melissa Howard, along with their committee and event chairs, and will kick off with the We Love Israel Shuk on January 14 from noon to 5 p.m. at the JFSM campus, 580 McIntosh Road, Sarasota. The shuk will recreate the atmosphere of an Israeli marketplace with music, adult and children’s activities, and the opportunity to buy Judaica and Israeli and Christian art and other items, said Jessi Sheslow, Director of Community Relations and the Israel@70 Event Coordinator.
Food vendors like Michael’s on East and Louies Modern will serve traditional Israeli food. The shuk also will feature an exhibit of photos submitted by community members titled Israel from the Eyes of the Community. The photos create a timeline of Israel’s history from a grandfather in the old city of Jerusalem and people in gas masks during the Gulf War to the present day. Attendees can also have their own souvenir photos taken in a photo booth with backdrops from Israel.
A featured vendor at the shuk is Megemeria Jewelry with pieces produced by Ethiopian Israelis. Ethiopian Jewery and Ethiopian Israeli culture is a theme during Israel@70 to help create awareness of, and celebrate, Israel’s diversity. On February 17, Strong Black Coffee (Café Shahor Hazak), an Ethiopian hip-hop duo will perform in collaboration with the local nonprofit Art, Rhymes & Beer. “We wanted something that would attract the larger community. Many people have no idea that there are Ethiopians living and flourishing in Israel,” Sheslow says. “The language of music speaks to everybody. They may perform in Hebrew, but everyone can relate to, and dance to, the music.” A family friendly hip-hop workshop will be held on February 18 at Temple Sinai at which the two young Ethiopian musicians of Strong Black Coffee will tell their story of immigrating to Israel as children and talk about rhyming.
On February 26, Louies Modern will host an elegant Israeli Chef’s dinner with two-time Chopped winner Admony, who owns Balaboosta, Bar Bolonat and Taim restaurants in New York City. The dinner will have two seatings and is intended to showcase the best of Israeli cuisine. A more casual event, Happy Birthday Israel, which is planned to be an all-out fun and family friendly birthday party, is being held at Robarts Arena March 11. Keshet Chaim, an Israeli modern dance troupe, will perform along with music by The Shuk Band.
This event also will honor community members who have supported JFSM travel and scholarship programs that send youth to Israel to experience its culture firsthand. “We have a number of different ways we provide scholarships for Israel travel and study opportunities, and there are very generous people who are committed to helping our youth understand the modern state of Israel,” says Kim Mullins, Chief Communications and Marketing Officer. “Studies show that when teens and young adults make a trip to Israel, it has a profound effect on Jewish identity that lasts a lifetime. We want to take this opportunity to thank our donors who have made it possible for so many young people in our area to have that experience.”
JFSM’s community partners also have events planned including a luncheon at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium highlighting the Israel-Mote partnership, World of Jazz at the Sarasota Jazz Festival sponsored by the Jazz Club of Sarasota, Birthday Party for Israel@70 held at the First Church of the Nazarene Bradenton, Jewish Chorale Concert Reaching from Despair to Hope, and Israel Pub Night sponsored by Temple Emanu-El. Other events include the 10th Annual Food Festival celebrating Israel at Temple Sinai, Shalom Shuk 70 at the Jewish Congregation of Venice, Chanukah Israel Celebration at Chabad of Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch, A Taste of Chanukah 2017 at Chabad of Sarasota, and Chanukah Israel Klezmer Festival at Chabad of Venice and North Port. Additional information and a full listing of events may be found at jfedsrq.org/israel70.

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