The regional Jewish community, from Squirrel Hill to Wheeling, turned out in force Tuesday night to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s 63rd Independence Day. (Watch the video)
The festivities, held at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh in Squirrel Hill, were sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, and included live music, food from local kosher caterers and a petting zoo.
The Spirit of Israel Teen Delegation, a performance group from Pittsburgh’s Partnership 2000 region, Karmiel-Misgav, was one of the featured acts.
“It’s good to see the diversity of our Jewish community here,” said Jeffrey Finkelstein, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. “There are people here from all segments of our community, and from different geographic areas, coming together to celebrate the birth of Israel.”
Interactive crafts and projects helped the younger generation make a connection with the Jewish state. The B’nai B’rith Youth Organization manned a table providing paper and markers for children to write letters to Israeli soldiers, thanking them for their service.
“The kids are working hard drawing pictures and Israeli flags for the soldiers,” said Jason Barash, regional director of BBYO. “I thought this was the perfect place to do it. Who keeps our independence in Israel safe more than the soldiers? They’re out there fighting for us.”
Many local organizations had representatives working tables and distributing information about their groups. Crafts from local Jewish vendors were also on display and for sale.
Teenage participants in the Diller Teen Fellows program, sponsored by the Agency for Jewish Learning, volunteered to work the festival, and the teen singers of HaZamir Pittsburgh was one of the featured musical acts.
“It’s wonderful to see all of our kids working so hard today,” said Ed Frim, executive director of the Agency for Jewish Learning. “When I look around and see the Diller Teen Fellows working so hard, and the HaZamir kids singing so professionally, I can’t help but feel good about the future of our community.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)