Calgary celebrates Israel@75: A People United

The Calgary Jewish Community came together to celebrate Yom Ha'atzmaut with performances from JCC's Voices Choir, Sharim JCC Children's Choir and live Israeli music from Heebster.

By Hannah Silver

(AJNews) – The room fell silent as the siren sounded – a blaring reminder that the battle to obtain, and retain, independence has not come without great loss. On April 24, over 130 members of Calgary’s Jewish and Israeli community joined in solidarity to commemorate Yom HaZikaron (Israeli Remembrance Day), and honour the 24,213 fallen soldiers of the Israel Defence Forces and 4,255 victims of terror. The service was hosted by the Paperny Family JCC in partnership with Temple B’nai Tikvah and Calgary Jewish Federation. (Similar programs took place in Jewish communities in Edmonton, and around the world.

Beginning with a flag procession carried by BBYO leadership, opening remarks from Yom HaZikaron Committee Chair Lana Tsalkovich Hewitt and JCC Board Chair Jerrad Blanchard reminded attendees of the sacrifices made daily to maintain a Jewish homeland. Calgary congregations from across denominational spectrums came together to take part, with Rabbis Jayne, Andrews, Glickman, Matusof, and Cohen, Temple B’nai Tikvah’s Music Director Katie Baker, and committee member Eran Gilboa leading prayers. New York Times best selling author Douglas Century shared the miraculous story behind Hannah Senesh’s last poem Ashrei HeGafrur/Blessed is the Match, written after parachuting into Yugoslavia on her mission to save Hungarian Jews. He and Hanit Jacobs then recited Natan Alterman’s The Silver Platter. Moving songs were performed by community and Yom HaZikaron committee members Nelli Horvat, Eran Gilboa, Meirav Stavi, Uma Fourman, Ilana Fourman, and guest pianist Deb Finkleman.

The following evening, on April 25, the fifth day of the Hebrew month of Iyar, along with communities around the world, we transitioned from the solemn and meaningful Yom HaZikaron into joyous Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day). Energy filled the “Jewish community living room,” as did a sea of Israeli flags, hats, and young painted faces as over 300 community members of all ages gathered at the Paperny Family JCC to celebrate 75 years of Israel. Attendees enjoyed performances from JCC’s Voices Choir, Sharim JCC Children’s Choir, and live Israeli music from Heebster throughout the evening, and devoured falafel and sabich from Karen’s Café, followed by birthday cake and popsicles.

The party was a collaborative effort by many organizations, including Calgary Jewish Federation, The Paperny Family JCC, and JNF, with tables also run by Israel Bonds, Canadian Hadassah-WIZO, and PJ Library. Financial support was provided for Israel@75 by the Martha and Harry Cohen Foundation, and the Israel Engagement Fund: A JCC Association of North America Program Accelerator. It was wonderful to see all generations of our community come together in both commemoration and celebration, with great excitement and love for Israel and our community; from Israeli born to diaspora raised, the sentiment remained the same – Am Israel Chai.

 Hannah Silver is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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