San Fran hosts annual 'Israel in the Gardens' event

Thousands attend celebration of Israel's birthday, headlined by Israeli musician Mosh Ben-Ari.

June 6, 2013 15:47
2 minute read.
Drum circle at Israel in the Gardens 2013, San Francisco

Drum circle at Israel in the Gardens 2013, San Francisco 390. (photo credit: Nora Smith)

Some 15,000 people came together in the San Francisco Bay Area this week to celebrate Israel's 65th birthday, at the 13th annual Israel in the Gardens celebration.

The festive day-long celebration of Israeli culture and innovation, was headlined by Israeli musician and composer Mosh Ben-Ari, and also featured African American choir the Hebrew Project from Stockton, performances by young local talent and entertainment by the Tzofim (Israeli scouts).

Special activities and games were available to children and teenagers, the Jewish Contemporary Museum put on short films from Sapir College in Sderot, and a wide spread of Jewish and Israeli dishes were on offer.

"This year's Israel in the Gardens highlighted our Federation's theme, the 'Power of Community,'" Michal Kohane, Director of The Israel Center, San Francisco said. "You walk into the Gardens, and you're struck with this 'wow' feeling. You realize you're part of an amazing, vibrant, positive, warm and welcoming community that stretches from here to Israel and back."

“For one day every year, thousands of members of the Bay Area Jewish community come together regardless of religious affiliation to celebrate community," enthused Donny Inbar, Ph.D.,  Associate Director for Arts & Culture at the Israel Center. "And I could not be happier that this celebration, the largest of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, is focused on our connection with Israel. The Israel we bring to the gardens is vibrant, innovative and fun; from hi-tech to music to culture, this year’s event was a triumph, and the 15,000 people that attended are testimony to its success.”

The main sponsorship for the event came from the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund, San Francisco, whose CEO Jennifer Gorovitz described the event as a "showcase of innovation."

"Innovation Alley, where young Israeli entrepreneurs showcased their new technologies, drew hundreds of young adults for whom this was their first Israel in the Gardens," she added, also mentioning the "Mideast meets West Bash" attended by 500 young adults the night before.

Gorovitz further mentioned the achievement awards bestowed upon two top grantees of the Federation in Israel, who discussed with event-goers their efforts to integrate young adult Ethiopians into the top echelons of the Israeli work force, as well as to bring the ultra-orthodox into the workforce. "Our goal was to engage as many people as possible in support of Israel, and we did it!” she said.

The event drew a mix of Israelis, Americans and Russians, providing groups that don't usually come together, with an opportunity to mingle. "Israel in the Gardens is an important reminder that we have common ground as a Jewish community, with so much to celebrate and take pride in,” Oakland resident Avi Zellman reflected.

Meanwhile, Alicia Levine, a newcomer to San Francisco remarked that "as someone who has recently moved to the Bay Area, it’s incredibly important to know that I have a community here in my new home.”

Traveling from further afield, Belgian siblings Emmanuel and Jessica Stein lauded the function as "a very good initiative." "The fact that there are so many facets to the Bay Area Jewish community is really wonderful to see,” they remarked.   

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