Birthday's are a big deal for kids. As adults, somehow only the "milestones" get a lot of attention.
What about when places have birthday's?
I have vivid memories of the Bicentennial in the US. That year everything was bedecked in red, white, and blue.
I also have strong memories of being in Israel in 1996 for the celebration of Jerusalem 3000. There was an air of celebration in the city. They were collecting signatures of everyone who visited the city that year . . . I wonder where that book went.
So what about Israel's 70th birthday? When I was a kid, I thought 70 was old for a person; today people in their 70's are full of life and doing amazing things. I understand making a big deal out of the US's 200th birthday, or Jerusalem's 3,000th birthday, but why make a fuss over Israel's 70th?
So often when we hear about Israel it is related to the news, politics, strife. Of course there is room for serious discourse about Israel. But in April, Milwaukee has focused on our connection to Israel. Our students have been learning about Israel, we have mourned together with Israel, and we have celebrated with great joy. I have felt privileged to be part of these experiences. Let me tell you about some of the things that happened.
Preparation for Yom HaZikaron
In preparation for Yom HaZikaron, our community Shinshinim went to local schools and had students write the names of fallen IDF soldiers onto rocks that would be used at the community commemoration. This project helped students understand the loss of Israeli soldiers not just in terms of numbers lost, but that each fallen soldier was an individual, someone's father, son, brother, uncle, friend. See pictures here.
Also this year, 11 IDF veterans who now live in Milwaukee went out to 10 local schools to share their stories. The classes interviewed the veterans and then created project boards that were on display at the community commemoration. The veterans enjoyed sharing their experiences and the kids learned so much about what it is like to serve in the IDF. Thank you to Ofir Amram, Benny Germanski, Shlomit Germanski, David Gruber, Inbal Hizmi Jorgensen, Peter Klein, Rachel Macagon, Anna Palatnick, Shay Pilnik, Avner Porat, and Leah Robbins for sharing your stories. Thank you to Bader Hillel Academy, Bader Hillel High School, Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamid School of Jewish Studies, Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun, Congregation Emanu-El Waukesha, Congregation Shalom, Congregation Sinai, Milwaukee Community Hebrew School, Milwaukee Jewish Day School, Pelz Hebrew School for allowing your students to participate.
See pictures here.
Yom HaZikaron for the Community
This year's Community Yom HaZikaron ceremony was tremendously impactful. The theme was L'Dor Vador (from generation to generation). In addition to the projects described above, children from Bader Hillel Academy and Milwaukee Jewish Day School presented a flower tribute, students from Nicolet High School's Hebrew program sang a song. There was also participation from students from Hillel Milwaukee. Then we heard from 3 generations of the Ben-Yitzchak family about their experiences as Israeli soldiers. They spoke beautifully and each shared a unique perspective. See pictures of the event here.
Yom HaAzmaut at City Hall
In honor of Israel's 70th birthday, the community gathered at City Hall to hear Mayor Barrett make a proclamation in honor Israel's 70th birthday. Students from Bader Hillel Academy and Milwaukee Jewish Day School were in attendance and did a fun activity with our Shinshinim as well. It was a day of great pride in Israel. And of course there was cake. See pictures here.
Yom HaAtzmaut for Teens
For the first time ever, there was a special Israel celebration planned and attended by local teens. At the Teen Israel Fest students gather to dance, paint tee-shirts, learn krav maga, make challah, listen to live Israeli music, and EAT (there was cake). A crowd of 100 kids gathered at Nicolet High School for a fun and energetic experience. See pictures of the event here.
Yom HaAtzmaut for the Community
Of course the crowning jewel was the annual Walk for Israel. Hundreds of people joined for the walk and then celebrated afterwards with a classic Israeli birthday party. There were balloon animals, face painting, gaga, a camel, live music, and food (including a cake). It was a beautiful day and people loved wearing the Israel at 70 hats while walking through Whitefish Bay. See pictures of the event here.
I hope you are as inspired as I am by learning about all these amazing activities. I feel so lucky to live in Milwaukee, a city that loves Israel and is making its 70th birthday so special for us all.
There are so many educational opportunities in Milwaukee. If you would like some help finding the right program for your child, contact Tzipi Altman-Shafer to talk about how you can “Go Jewish” with your family (414-963-2718 or TziporahA@MilwaukeeJewish.org).