Jun 10, 2015
Thousands Celebrate with Federation at IsraelFest in Mizner Park
Amid a sea of blue and white, more than 3,000 local residents came together in solidarity and spirit to celebrate the 67th anniversary – and the miracles - of the modern State of Israel and observe Jerusalem Day at IsraelFest. The ruach and the aroma of falafel emanated from Mizner Park Amphitheater in East Boca Raton on May 17. The community’s vibrant Jewish diversity was on full display at what was by far the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County’s largest event of the year.
Both joyous and profound, the free community-wide celebration engaged all ages and stages of life with an array of activities, headlined onstage by an unprecedented collaboration of two superstars of Jewish music, Josh Nelson and Neshama Carlebach.
The gates opened at 3:00 pm to a petting zoo, face painting, sports and games presented by PJ Library® of South Palm Beach County, along with kosher food for sale and 38 booths showcasing local Jewish synagogues, schools, agencies and other organizations. Rock bands onstage from Weinbaum Yeshiva High School and Claire and Emanuel G. Rosenblatt High School at Donna Klein Jewish Academy also opened the festivities. Thanks to the Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), there was free admission to Israeli and Jewish-themed exhibits at the Boca Raton Museum of Art right next to the amphitheater.
"It's absolutely thrilling to look out and see the full vibrant diversity of our Jewish community,” said Matthew C. Levin, Federation President & CEO, opening the program onstage at 4:00. "Just feel the pride surging around us! For Israel and its phenomenal, rapid transformation into a democracy at the cutting edge of technology and science, culture and the arts, humanitarian aid and the environment… for our people, for our synagogues and agencies. Just feel this powerful commitment for our homeland magnified by the strength of our community!"
Kosher Rock offered a set recalling towering figures of the rock world as their influences, while redolent of Jewish culture. Children from diverse local synagogues led the national anthems. And the crowd heard from Chaim Shacham, Consul General of Israel to Florida and Puerto Rico and JCRC Co-Chair Andrew Robins, as well as support from U.S. Representatives Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel, and Boca Raton City Council member Scott Singer joined by Vice Mayor Robert Weinroth. Just returning home that day, Pastor Tye Riter of REVEAL Fellowship spoke of the transformative Israel Mission he’d just led for 20 congregants, inspired by his relationship with the Federation.
“Together, we are proud that our homeland values freedom, justice, and peace as a bastion of democracy and human dignity in a region sorely lacking these,” said Consul General Schacham. “Despite its challenges, Israel’s vibrant society and economy excel in science, medicine, agriculture and the arts. We are also a nation that remembers how grateful we are to the support of the US and the world Jewish community; it is this special friendship that helps keep us both safe and prosperous.”
Held on Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), IsraelFest included brought local rabbis to the stage for a special ceremony to commemorate Jerusalem's hard-fought reunification during the Six-Day War in 1967. Rabbi Josh Broide, the Federation's Director of Community Engagement, led the powerful ceremony with Rabbis David Baum (Shaarei Kodesh), Marci Bloch and Robert Silvers (Congregation B'nai Israel), David Englander (B'nai Torah Congregation), Efrem Goldberg and Philip Moskowitz (Boca Raton Synagogue), Menachem Jaroslawicz (Delray Orthodox), Baruch Plotkin (Donna Klein Jewish Academy), and Greg Weisman (Temple Beth El). They offered a poignant El Malei Rachamim memorial prayer for the many soldiers lost that day, before leading the crowd in singing "Yerushalyim Shel Zahav" (Jerusalem of Gold).
"I don't know that we could have imagined this moment when we founded our Federation 36 years ago,” said Al Gortz, the Board Chair and a Founder of the Federation, in his remarks. “But none of our founders would have been surprised that South Palm Beach County continues to stand together in love and solidarity with Israel!"
The generous Presenting Sponsor for IsraelFest 2015 sponsor list was BB&T, and the Patron Sponsor was Squire Patton Boggs. Supporting Sponsors were Assisting Hands Home Care, Critter Control, Greenbrier, Hotwire Communications, Sunstates Security and Waterstone Resort & Marina. Free museum to the art exhibits was is presented by the JCRC and sponsored by Polen Capital. Boca Raton Magazine was the event’s Exclusive Magazine Sponsor.