Celebrate Israel’s April holidays right here at home

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Rhode Islanders can join Israelis and Jews worldwide in celebrating Yom Ha’Zikaron, Israeli remembrance day, April 13-14, and Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israeli independence day, April 14-15, with a range of activities.

Whether you like walking tours or enjoy the many songs Israel has submitted to the Eurovision contest over the years, the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island has an event or activity for you. If you prefer family scavenger hunts, or arts and crafts, or eating Israeli foods, there is something for you! Even if your taste runs to fictional exploits of Israeli counterterrorism operations or you want to honor those who fell defending the Jewish homeland, the Alliance has something for you!

Last year, when the pandemic upended all our plans, Or Cohen, our community’s shlichah (Israeli emissary), quickly put together activity boxes. This year, the Alliance is planning two different boxes geared to two different age groups. One, for families with children from pre-kindergarten through middle school, will include a virtual scavenger hunt in which family members will work together to conduct several “missions.” The box will hold arts and crafts, games, music, videos, Israeli snacks and other items. The other box will be similar, but more suitable for teens and adults, and will include a mosaic art project. Both boxes must be ordered by April 5 at jewishallianceri.org/israel-in-a-box. Thanks to the Alliance’s Relief and Recovery Fund, the Community Relations Council and the generosity of Temples Beth-El, Emanu-El and Habonim, the boxes are free.

As I am writing, I have just received photos showing the meeting of two teams of filmmakers who are filming different aspects of our “sister city” area of Afula-Gilboa, Israel, thanks to a grant from the Israel Engagement Fund, a program accelerator of the Jewish Community Center Association. The Alliance’s partner JCCs in the Connecticut cities of New Haven and Stamford are sharing the grant.

One team is walking through the Afula and Gilboa region, collecting the stories of the sites and people they meet. For instance, there are stories of the family that started the falafel places; Tnuat Tarbut, a collective of activist artists; the shuk/market; and Afula’s synagogue and chief rabbi.

The other team is filming short vignettes depicting the ethnic diversity of the area, including Arab villages and their socioeconomic realities.

Among the sites the filmmakers are exploring are the palace of the biblical Queen Jezebel and Muslim fortresses. The filmmakers will also focus on Orde Wingate, a British soldier who helped train what became the Haganah. “Running Around Afula-Gibloa” premieres on Sunday, April 11, at noon, on Virtual J, the JCC Association’s answer to Netflix and YouTube. Details at jewishallianceri.org/running Registration will open shortly.

At 7:30 p.m. on April 11, artist Nancy Katz will hold a Zoom program to assemble the mosaic project included in the adult Israel-in-a-Box. You must sign up for the activity box to participate in this event.

Programs on April 13 will explore defending Israel, from both the fictional and non-fictional perspectives. At 5:30 p.m., the Alliance will host a Zoom chat with two of the stars of the hit Netflix show “Fauda.” Yaakov Zada Daniel and Boaz Konforty will discuss their journeys as actors, the significance of Jews and Arabs collaborating on the series, and the impact of the series on both communities.

Daniel served in Shayetet 13, an elite unit of Israel’s navy, and later transferred to the undercover Duvdevan Unit, an elite counterterrorism unit, which became particularly relevant for his role as Eli in “Fauda.” Before becoming an actor, Konforty was a tank commander. He can also be seen on the Netflix limited series “The Spy,” about Elie Cohen. For those unfamiliar with “Fauda,” a short documentary about the first season may be viewed on the landing page of the registration link, jewishfederationofgreaternewha.regfox.com/fauda.

At 7 p.m. on April 13, Israeli Lt. Cmdr. Or Cohen, a reserve combat officer in Israel’s navy and Rhode Island’s shalichah, will conduct a Zoom program for Yom Ha’Zikaron, featuring the personal stories of a few of the people who sacrificed their lives in defending Israel, as well as traditional readings, memorial prayers and music. Register at jewishallianceri.org/yom-hazikaron-ceremony.

On Thursday, April 15, in celebration of Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Clover Food Lab, of Boston, will deliver its Mediterranean boxes for pickup at five sites in Rhode Island – the Alliance’s Dwares JCC and synagogues in Barrington, Cranston, East Greenwich and Newport. Clover is under the Kosher supervision of Rabbi Barry Dolinger, of Congregation Beth Sholom, in Providence, and is a cult-favorite restaurant chain founded by environmentalist Ayr Muir. It has expanded from a food truck in 2008 to 12 restaurants serving thousands daily in the greater Boston area. It sources an unprecedented amount of its menu from local farmers. Place orders at https://bit.ly/2OX8ifp by Tuesday, April 13, at 5 p.m. A two-person box provides three meals each, for a total of six meals. A four-person box provides a dozen meals.

At 4:30 p.m. on April 15, Or Cohen will host a Yom Ha’Atzmaut program for families, co-sponsored by PJ Library. The Zoom program includes family entertainment and music. Winners of the virtual scavenger hunt will be announced during this program. Look for registration information in the coming weeks.

At 8 p.m. on April 15, Jodi Magness, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will speak about “Ancient Synagogues in the Land of Israel” in a program co-sponsored by Temple Emanu-El, of Providence, and the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island. In this slide-illustrated lecture, Magness will discuss the origins of ancient synagogues and their development until the Muslim conquest of Israel in the early 7th century C.E. Register for the free program at teprov.org/form/HolyLand.

The celebrations will conclude on April 18 at 11:30 a.m. with “The Victory of Israeli Music: From ‘Hallelujah’ to ‘Toy.’ ” This program will feature world-famous Israeli songwriter, composer and artistic director Doron Medalie, who will discuss the evolving story of Israeli culture and answer these vital questions: How does culture reflect Israeli society and how do you create change via culture? Can culture change a narrative? Register at https://bit.ly/3cBJYaV.

The JCC Association will also hold the following three programs on Virtual J at virtualjcc.com/channel/daysofmemory, all at 8 p.m.:

  • April 7: “Yom Ha’Shoah: Honoring Jewish Resilience and Storytelling”
  • April 13: “Yom Ha’Zikaron: The Power of Jewish Peoplehood Through Personal and Collective Mourning”
  • April 14: “Yom Ha’Atzmaut: Moments of Pride Through Israeli Innovation”

LARRY KATZ (lkatz@jewishallianceri.org) is director of Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.