Federation plans to expand Israel Independence celebration

Federation plans to expand Israel Independence celebration

The Jewish community will celebrate Israel Independence Day at an expanded event this spring, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh has announced.

JFest, as the expanded event will be called, is billed as “a celebration of Israel Independence Day and the Jewish community.”

The event is set for Thursday, April 26, from 4 to 8:30 p.m. at Schenley Plaza (between Hillman and Carnegie Libraries in Oakland) and in the nearby Carnegie Music Hall.

As part of its yearlong Centennial Celebration, the Jewish Federation is converting the former Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) festivities into an enhanced event that will appeal to a broad audience.

“Yom Ha’atzmaut provides the perfect opportunity for the entire community to join together in celebration,” said Jan Levinson, chair of JFest, in a prepared statement. “With Israel as our centerpiece, we’ll have interactive activities of all kinds to engage younger children through teens, as well as cultural performances showcasing Israeli and local talent – including the acclaimed Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.”

Among the activities being launched at JFest are:

• PJ Library Archeological Dig — Children will “dig” in the “sands of Israel” to unearth archeological treasures that will teach them about their ancestors and ancient life in Israel.

• Israeli Arts Fair — a wide selection of Israeli art and crafts coming directly from Israel.

• The JFest Falafels — Life-sized JFest mascots, Chick Pete and Tahini Talia will race against the Pittsburgh Pirates Pierogies.

• Krav Maga Demonstration and Workshops — Certified Krav Maga instructors will showcase the self-defense discipline used by the Israel Defense Forces.

• Mitzva Projects — Participants can plant seeds with the Jewish National Fund and learn about JNF’s work in Israel, and visit the Squirrel Hill Food Pantry to donate items to its food drive and put together healthy after-school snack bags.

• The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre — The PBT will perform at JFest in anticipation of its summer visit to Israel to perform at the Karmiel Dance Festival. The dance festival hosts some 5,000 dancers from Israel and abroad and attracts more than 300,000 visitors and guests.

• Seeds of Sun: The Israeli-Jazz ensemble, which has played at the Kennedy Center and the 92nd Street Y, blends Israeli music with jazz – and has traveled as far as Vietnam, Hong Kong and the Philippines to introduce their new and exciting sound of Israel to the world. 

JFest also will conduct a “We Heart Israel” campaign, encouraging participants to tell others why they love Israel by creating and posting short videos. Visit weheartisrael.blogspot.com for all the details.

JFest will also bring back Israeli Dancing, the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, Spirit of Israel Teen Delegation and the Tel Aviv’s Luna Park.

Among the organizations participating are Congregation Beth Shalom, Beth Shalom USY, B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, Community Day School, Diller Teen Fellows, the Hillel Jewish University Center, Jewish Community Center, Jewish National Fund, Jewish Association on Aging, National Council of Synagogue Youth, PJ Library, Rodef Shalom Congregation, Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry, Temple Ohav Shalom and Temple Sinai.

Other agencies, organizations and synagogues interested in sponsoring activities or becoming involved in other ways may contact Teddi Jacobson at 412-992-5207.

Parking will be available in nearby lots in Oakland, and shuttles will run from central locations throughout the area.

Visit jfestpgh.org or contact Eric Probola at 412-992-5247 for more information.