Six decades of independence commemorated joyfully throughout the Metroplex

Dallas Jewish community comes together to celebrate Israel’s 60th
By Deb Silverthorn
The past, present and future of Israel were celebrated in style at the Aaron Family JCC as Dallas’ Jewish community gathered in honor of Israel’s 60th anniversary. Coordinated by the JCC’s Laura Seymour, the event was co-chaired by Elizabeth and Ron Bendalin, John Lacritz, Ellen and Jim Markus and Erica Robins.
It was a true community effort. Organizing and carrying out of activities and programming were shared by the Aaron Family JCC, Adat Chaverim, Akiba Academy, Ann & Nate Levine Academy, American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, BBYO, Community Kollel of Dallas, Congregation Anshai Torah, Congregation Beth Torah, Congregation Nishmat Am, Congregation Shaare Tefilla, Congregation Shearith Israel, Dallas Chapter of Hadassah, Dallas Kosher, Jewish Community Relations Council of Dallas, Jewish Family Service, Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, Jewish War Veterans Post 256, Legacy at Willow Bend, National Council of Jewish Women, Temple Bnai Israel, Temple Emanu-El, Temple Shalom, Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce, Tycher Library, Veranda Preston Hollow, Yavneh Academy and Young Judaea. “It’s with incredible commitment and support that all of these groups came together,” said JCC President Artie Allen. “We are pleased to host this momentous event. Sixty years for Israel is a local, national and international occasion for joy and I think we know how to do it best!”
Community members portraying Rabbi Abraham Isaac haKohen Kook, Hadassah founder Henrietta Szold and other notables from Israel’s history traveled throughout the JCC, telling stories and sharing in the festivities. “This is a magnificent celebration,” said “Rabbi Kook,” Rav Hanan Schlesinger of the Community Kollel of Dallas. “For so many Jews to come together with such great enthusiasm is beautiful.”
“Kids of all ages” enjoyed Café Simcha, with Israeli delectables from Simcha Kosher Catering, Israeli dancing, “making snow” at Mt. Hermon and pita in the “desert,” laser tag, an IDF experience by Group Dynamix and more. Children from choirs around the community sang in Zale Auditorium, displays of photographs of Israel lined the halls, and videos and informational presentations were held throughout the JCC. Cooking, art, music — not a cultural moment was missed.
“I am kvelling. To change the model and to see it incorporate such collaboration from such a number of organizations is community building,” said Gary Weinstein, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. “Nothing is better than to share in the love, respect and responsibility of building the state of Israel.”
Tarrant County
Chag sameach, Israel!
By Laurie Barker James
The Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County threw a big birthday party for Israel on Sunday, May 11. Federation Vice President Eddie Feld joked that it was a “surprise 60th birthday — the surprise was that 340 people in the community wanted to come!”
The “Israel at 60 Gala” at Fort Worth’s Beth-El Congregation was packed with Israelis, American Jews and non-Jewish supporters of Israel. Event Co-chair Shoshana Howard said she and her committee would have been happy with attendance of 250, and that they “didn’t dream of anything bigger.”
“We wanted the community to be together,” she said. Gala Committee members and staff at Beth-El scrambled to accommodate the overflow of eager attendees.
Co-chairs Howard and Rachel Yaacobi put together an extraordinary event. The evening began with cocktails and Israeli hors d’oeuvres. Shoshana Thoma-Isgur and Jennifer Ratner served as emcees for the multimedia presentation, which included renditions of the national anthem by Beth-El’s Monica Braverman and “Hatikvah” by Congregation Ahavath Sholom’s Dr. Javier Smolarz.
Committee members Shirley Ben-David, Ruthy Erez, Lihi Zabari Kamen, Ilana Knust, Rivka Marco, Posy McMillen, Debby Rice, Naomi Rosenfield and Yosi Yaacobi put together a slideshow featuring historical footage of the events leading up to the vote for Israeli statehood.
In 1922, the League of Nations entrusted Great Britain with the mandate for governing Israel. Britain was called upon to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. One world war and a Shoah later, that nation kept its promise.
In November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution outlining the establishment of a Jewish state in British Palestinian territory. After six months of negotiation, the boundaries of the state of Israel were drawn. On May 14, 1948, the British government’s mandate over the Palestinian Territory expired. The new state was recognized by the U.S. government at 11 a.m. Israel time on May 14, and by the Russian government three days later.
Some Tarrant County “elders,” who remembered the creation of the state of Israel, spoke about their perspective of the events in a video. Leon Brachman recalled chairing a meeting in Fort Worth on the day of the vote for statehood, which was attended by the mayor, the state representative, the congressman and several local rabbis.
The TJP’s Rene Wisch was also in Fort Worth in 1948, with husband Jimmy and her growing family. The newspaper was started the year prior to Israel’s statehood, and in a telephone interview, Wisch also recalled the meeting, which she says was at Paschal High School.
“It’s amazing what Israel accomplished, despite daily adversity,” she said.
Brachman echoed that sentiment. At the time of the United Nations vote for statehood, he said, Israel was already under attack by seven Arab armies.
“We had a Yizkor service after all the celebrations for all the people who were going to die under the attacks,” he said.
Brachman also provided a sober reminder to those too young to remember when Israel could barely stand on her own. He said that in 1948, he was approached by a member of the Haganah, who came to Fort Worth to seek Brachman’s aid. When told that the Israelis badly needed weapons, Brachman went to work on the pawnshops of Fort Worth.
“We got every kind of gun imaginable, and every kind of bullet,” he said. Brachman got the arms donated by the pawnshop owners, many of whom were Jewish.
A highlight of the evening was a presentation by the deputy consul general of Israel to the Southwest. Belaynesh Zevadia made aliyah from Ethiopia in 1984, fleeing religious persecution and famine. The first Ethiopian woman in the Israeli government, Zevadia said she is living proof of the diversity of the country, as well as the power of the Jewish state for those who are persecuted for their religion.
“I am proud to represent the state of Israel,” she said.
Zevadia’s comments were echoed by Committee Co-chair Shoshana Howard.
“Hopefully there will never be another Holocaust,” she said. “But now we have a country that will never deny a place to the Jewish exiles.”
The committee received a proclamation from Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief and the Fort Worth City Council, commemorating the day, and citing Israel’s “strong friendship” with the United States.
The audience was treated to an exclusive performance by dancers Liliya Aronov and Assaf Benchetrit, Israeli members of Arlington’s Metropolitan Classic Ballet. The Jerusalem-born Benchetrit has partnered with Siberian native Aronov for several years, first at the Rubin Academy for Music and Dance in Israel, and then in the United States. Dressed in blue and white, the dancers dazzled the crowd with their performance to the music of “Jerusalem of Gold.” Aronov acknowledged the presence of her father, who now lives in Israel but came to see her perform.
And they couldn’t call it a gala without sumptuous food. Party-goers were treated to Israeli hummus, falafel, tabouli and pita bread, along with wine, beer and soft drinks. The main course included salmon, saffron rice, salad and feta cheese.
The after-dinner entertainment featured Yoel Sharabi, an Israeli singer and accomplished musician whose repertoire includes modern Israeli, classic Yemenite and Chassidic songs. The Israeli-born Sharabi spends much of his time in New York, and confessed to the Tarrant County audience his troubles finding his way from Dallas to Fort Worth amid the myriad of strangely-numbered freeways.
“Texas is a big place,” he said. “Your Interstate 35 goes north, south, east and west.”
The food and the atmosphere, which included huge pictures of Israel’s most scenic destinations, combined to make the attendees yearn to see Eretz Yisrael. Christian members of Yad B’Yad recounted their awe of seeing the “Holy Land.” Those who have visited, like veteran traveler Rene Wisch, talked about their love of making the journey.
“There’s always something new to see,” Wisch said. “The country is always progressing. If I weren’t 85, I’d go tomorrow!”
For Event Co-chair Shoshana Howard, that was the whole point of the evening.
“Every Jew needs to stay connected to their identity as a Jew, and to our homeland,” she said.
Sponsors of the gala included the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, with financial support from the Jewish Federation Foundation; the Dan Danciger/Fort Worth Hebrew Day School Supporting Foundation; The Molly Roth Fund; Yad B’Yad/Hashomer; Ruthy and Eldad Erez; and the Israeli community of Fort Worth and Tarrant County.

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