The Jewish United Fund (JUF) / Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago hosted the 64th anniversary of Israel’s Independence Day at the Daley Center in downtown Chicago on Thursday.
“Israel is a remarkably diverse society,” said Aaron Cohen, vice president of communications at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. “I think that’s one aspect of Israel that tends not to make the headlines.”
Joel Schatz, director of News & Information for the JUF, said that a few hundred people were expected to attend Thursday’s event.
“Normally around this time of year we hold Israeli Solidarity Day, walk with Israel. We’ve done that for decades,” he said.
The Solidarity Days are held over the next three weeks including lectures, screenings and family-orientated gatherings. There will be a total of 15 events.
Adam Rowe, 28, said Jewish celebrations tend to be private, even though this festival is out in the open. He learned about the event from Rabbi Phyllis Sommer’s Twitter.
“Public displays are an important thing to show the community that you’re proud of your heritage and to show others that it’s okay to be proud in a public forum,” he said.
Rowe’s parents believed it was important to have a respect for the Jewish faith as well as Israel; he treats them as two separate entities.
The celebration began with a flash mob dance before Cantor Aric Luck of Evanston sang “The Star Spangled Banner” in English and the Israel national anthem, “Hatikvah” or “The Hope,” in Hebrew.
Dishler said Israeli Consulate General Orli Gil spoke, a modern dance company from Israel performed folk dances, the North Shore Center for Performing Arts in Skokie screened “Israel Inside the Movie: How a Small Nation Makes a Big Difference” and the organization held a Blue & White Bar Night for younger people later Thursday night.
“Our main event is on May 6; we are going to have six events for youth and teenagers throughout the Chicago land area,” said Steve Dishler, 47, an organizer who works with the organization who handles Israeli affairs.
IsraFest Family Fun Day will be held in various communities. Each location features different activities and focuses such as Israeli heroes, sports and athletic training, science and technology, food and culture, and agriculture and environmentalism.
As the celebration continues, Chicagoans continue to discuss and learn about Israel history and culture.