JCCA, JFNA Programs to Honor Israel’s Past, Celebrate Present and Future

By Adam Grobman

Many Jews living today have always known Israel as the Jewish homeland. But as a nation that was established just 73 years ago, the anguish of loss and joy of success related to its founding still echo in Israeli society today.

“The pain is very present,” says Ayelet Shanken, an Israeli native and local community member. “In any given family, there has been someone lost.”

Ayelet recalls dressing in blue and white, the colors of the Israeli flag, each year at school for the annual Yom HaZikaron ceremony to commemorate those lost. “They would read the names of the fallen soldiers that went to our school,” she says. “Many schools have a Memorial Wall dedicated to former students.”

Several programs from JCC Association and Jewish Federations of North America this month will honor and celebrate Israel and its citizens in recognition of Yom HaZikaron (Day of Remembrance) and Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day).

JCCA will commemorate Yom HaZikaron on Tuesday, April 13 at 8pm with The Power of Jewish Peoplehood Through Personal and Collective Mourning, an intimate conversation about loss and healing as shared by Israelis who know the heartache and suffering from their own experiences.

As Israelis know well, the powerful sorrow of Yom HaZikaron is one that must be recognized, then set aside as the jubilation of Yom HaAtzmaut rushes in.

“Yom HaAtzmaut is a celebration – it’s the essence of life and land and home that could not exist without those soldiers that sacrificed,” Ayelet says, noting the sharp transition between grief and gratitude. “Sometimes you don’t even have the chance to wipe all your tears from the memorial before the fireworks begin. The two are so intertwined - there cannot be one without the other.”

Anguish will give way to joy on Wednesday, April 14 at 8pm, when JCCA will celebrate the founding of the state of Israel with Moments of Pride Through Israeli Innovation. The program will share the stories of three of the Jewish state’s innovative social entrepreneurs, whose work has advanced the fields of cybersecurity, agriculture, and emergency health care. Each entrepreneur will be joined by a celebrated Israeli author. For more info on both JCCA programs, visit virtualjcc.com/channel/daysofmemory.

The celebration will continue on Thursday, April 15 at 7pm with the Jewish Federation of North America’s Global Celebration of Israel’s 73rd Independence Day.

The program will highlight athletic achievements by Israelis throughout the history of the state and will be kicked off with a special farewell address from Reuven Rivlin, President of Israel.

Rivlin, who has served as Israel’s 10th President since 2014, will discuss how sports have helped shape Israeli society. Prior to entering the public sector, Rivlin served as legal advisor to the Beitar Jerusalem Sports Association and as manager of Beitar Jerusalem Football Club.

This program will also feature:

  • Amar’e Stoudemire, six-time NBA All-Star and player development assistant for the Brooklyn Nets, who will join the virtual 73-hoops challenge with the students of the Maryland Hillel.
  • Mark Wilf, Minnesota Vikings Owner and Chair of JFNA Board of Trustees, who will give welcoming remarks and discuss how his passions for sports, Israel, and the Jewish community connect.
  • Linoy Ashram, 2021 Olympic rhythmic gymnast sensation and first Israeli to win the gold medal in the Individual All-Around Event at the 2020 European Championships.
  • Agnes Keleti, 100-year-old Hungarian-Israeli gymnast and Holocaust survivor with ten Olympic medals. Keleti is the oldest living Olympic champion and medalist. 
  • Noa Tishby, Israeli actress and producer of the Emmy-winning drama “In Treatment” on HBO.
  • And many more!

“This is an all-star studded cast of presenters,” says Jenn Ross, President/CEO of Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg. “I hope that members of our community will join JFNA in celebrating Israel through this program.”

To register for this FREE program from JFNA, visit jfeds.org/Israel73.