Last July, there was a lot of celebrating Israel in Birmingham as the World Games athletes brought home a record haul of medals.
Several events are planned in the region to celebrate Israel’s 75th birthday. Here are those we had as of press time:
Year of events in Birmingham
The Birmingham Jewish Federation is organizing a year-long celebration of Israel’s 75th birthday.
The two largest events will be at the end of April, with a community Blue and White Party on April 26, and the Jewish Food Festival on April 30.
The Blue and White party will be from 5 to 7 p.m. at the N.E. Miles Jewish Day School. It will include Israeli music, dinner and dessert, activities and crafts, and a chance to win an Israeli gift basket.
The party is free to those who register in advance and $10 at the door.
The Jewish Food and Culture Fest will be at the Levite Jewish Community Center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. While the festival is an annual event, there will be Israel-themed additions, including a recreation of an Israeli shuk, an open-air market. A grant from the Jewish Community Center Association of America is adding to the festivities.
The menu will include traditional favorites such as brisket, cabbage rolls, kugel, matzah ball soup, falafel and corned beef. New this year are a Sephardic-style chicken, and Mandelbrot.
Many volunteer shifts are still available for prep work and the day of. A crowd of about 2,000 is anticipated, according to the LJCC.
Trips to Israel are also a large part of the celebration. In October there will be a combined Alabama mission with the Federations from Montgomery and Mobile. In November, there will be another Momentum group doing a 9-day journey that starts a year-long course for Jewish mothers with children under the age of 18.
The annual Jewish Community Centers Maccabi Games for teens is being held in Haifa in July, and Birmingham is sending a delegation of six teens to compete in soccer and flag football. They will then spend two weeks touring the country with other delegations from around the world.
With groups going to Israel, there are a couple of classes for those planning to travel, or who are simply interested in the topics.
On May 15, Community Security Coordinator Jeff Brown will lead a Traveler Safety Course, for those traveling to Israel or any other country. The 6 p.m. session will discuss security issues that travelers need to know about, how to not look like a target, and being situationally aware.
On May 22 at 6 p.m., Orly Henkin and the community Shinshinim, Ma’ayan Elisha and Zohar Shemesh, will lead Tourist Hebrew 101, basic Hebrew phrases that will come in handy.
An Israeli movie series will kick off on May 1 at the LJCC, starting at 1:30 p.m. Movies are in Hebrew with English subtitles, and snacks will be furnished. Registration is required.
The May 1 film is “The Band’s Visit,” a romantic comedy about eight members of the Egyptian Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra who are supposed to perform at an Arab center in Petach Tikvah, but through miscommunications wind up in a small town in the Negev, with no hotel and no transportation out.
On June 5, “Maktub” is about two low-level mobsters in Jerusalem who survive a bombing and decide to change their ways, deciding to try and fulfil wishes that strangers leave on slips between the stones in the Western Wall. The 2017 film was one of the biggest hits in Israel in two decades.
“The Wedding Plan” on July 3 is about a bride whose wedding is called off, but she decides to keep the reservations while trusting God to provide a husband.
On Aug. 7, “The Women’s Balcony” is a dramatic comedy about a gender rift in an Orthodox community after an accident at a Bar Mitzvah celebration.
An Israeli wine tasting event is being planned for Nov. 4 at the LJCC with Steve Kerbel. The Washington-based educator and Israeli wine expert will lead a virtual tour of Israel and detail Israel’s ancient wine history and modern wine culture. More information will be released during the summer.
A ‘Reading Israel” series for books by Israeli authors is also being planned, and additional events are being discussed.
The year of events kicked off, literally, with a Krav Maga class for ages 8 to 12 at the LJCC in March. On April 3, the Shinshinim and Anna Redensky led an Israeli dance class.
Israel gala honors Alabama supporters
The Alabama-Israel Task Force will honor Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Parker and Chief Larry Smith of the Cherokee Tribe of Northeast Alabama at an Alabama-Israel Leadership Gala honoring Israel’s 75th birthday. The event will be at The Epicenter in Tanner, just north of Decatur, on April 29 at 7 p.m.
The event will also mark the 80th anniversary of the historic resolution passed by the Alabama Legislature in 1943, making Alabama the first state to call for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in the land of Israel.
Eeki Elner, founder and director of the Israel Leadership Institute in Sderot, will present the Israel Leadership Awards, which were selected by the AITF steering committee and the ILI board. The Institute identifies, recruits, trains, mentors and nurtures the future generation of Israeli leaders, integrating its graduates into leadership positions throughout society.
There will also be a special presentation to Anat Sultan-Dadon, Israel’s Consul General to the Southeast, based in Atlanta.
Reservations are $75, with sponsorships available at the $500 and $1,000 level. The evening includes kosher heavy hors d’oeuvres and desserts, and doors will open at 6 p.m. for photo opportunities with the honorees.
The AITF was established in 2014 with leadership from the Christian and Jewish communities “to provide a bridge and catalyst for broader cooperative efforts and help cultivate an even stronger and expanding state-to-state relationship between Alabama and Israel for the mutual benefit of their people.”
New Orleans celebration is “Made in Amharica”
Gili Yalo will headline the Israel Independence Day celebration on April 25 at the New Orleans Jewish Community Center Uptown. The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a Yom HaZikaron ceremony, remembering Israel’s fallen soldiers, led by members of the New Orleans Jewish Clergy Council. “Hatikva” will be led by students from the Jewish Community Day School.
At 6 p.m., the celebration begins with a dinner from Dvash Catering, and the concert.
Yalo takes traditional Ethiopian music and incorporates it into contemporary styles, combining Ethiopian roots with soul, funk, psychedelic and jazz. His lyrics are in English and Amharic.
He and his family fled Ethiopia on foot in 1984, in a covert operation into Sudan, which was a hostile country. Encouraged by music to keep moving, and singing as a small boy on his father’s shoulders during the journey, they wound up in a refugee camp and found their way to Israel as part of Operation Moses.
He was a member of Pirhei Yerushalaim, a choir for religious boys, and did several European tours with the group. He also served in a musical troop in the Israeli Defense Forces, then sang in cover bands and as lead singer for Israeli reggae group Zvuloon Dub System.
In 2019 he collaborated with Grammy nominee Niles City Sound to make “Made in Amharica,” a collaboration between Yalo and Dallas-based musicians. His self-titled debut album was released in 2017, two years after he launched his solo career.
The event is free and open to the community. Registration is here.
StandWithUs and Tulane Hillel will have an Israel Fest on the LBC Quad on April 26 from 5 to 8 p.m., with swag, Israeli music and food.
Also in the region…
Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El will have an Israeli Shabbat Ruach on May 5 at 5:345 p.m., with a musical Kabbalat Shabbat followed by an Israeli dinner and trivia.
Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham will have a Yom Ha’Atzmaut Shabbat service with the band and choir, April 28 at 6 p.m.
The Huntsville Jewish community will host an Israel Birthday party on April 30 from 2 to 4 p.m. at Etz Chayim.
In Mobile, there will be an Israel celebration on April 30, from 3 to 5 p.m. at Ahavas Chesed. There will be Israeli food and drinks, a community mitzvah project for Israeli soldiers, bounce house, a message from special guests and a tree planting.
The Jewish Federation of Central Alabama announced that Consul General Anat Sultan-Dadon will be in Montgomery on April 28. Details were not set as of press time, but plans are underway for an Israel celebration at 4 p.m., a casual event with activities and food, at Agudath Israel-Etz Ahayem. A Shabbat service will be at 6 p.m. at Temple Beth Or, with Sultan-Dadon as guest speaker.
Alexandria’s Gemiluth Chassodim will screen “Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel,” April 26 at 6:15 p.m. The film chronicles the unlikely 2017 run of Israel’s national baseball team in its first appearance at the World Baseball Classic. Among the team members was pitcher Jeremy Bleich of New Orleans. The underdogs, finally ranked highly in the world, proceeded to capture the world’s imagination during its deep run in the prestigious tournament — something which was not replicated last month in the 2023 edition. A light dinner follows the screening.