by Jenna Soroka
(AJNews) – Preparation for the Israeli Pavilion at the Heritage Festival, organized by the Jewish Federation of Edmonton, may have happened in a fraction of the time than in typical years, but the execution was just as spectacular. “We are so happy we are here!” Christina Reboh, co-chair with Meirav Or for the Israeli Pavilion, said. Reboh also added that “it is nice to see life slowly returning back to what we know and love.”
Catering by Ed operated the food tent and prepared a delicious, kosher menu which included falafel, mint lemonana, fruit blintzes, and deep fried pickles. As people took in all that the Heritage Festival had to offer, volunteers worked hard behind the scenes to quench people’s thirst and fill their bellies in the hot weather.
When people entered the cultural tent, they could learn fun facts about Israel, experience a mini version of the Mahane Yehuda Market, and see a beautiful vignette of a traditional Jewish wedding. The vignette featured a chuppah, ketubah (marriage contract), wedding dress, Kittel, Tallit, and an explanation of what traditionally occurs before and after the chuppah ceremony.
Volunteers inside the cultural tent welcomed people into Israeli life and Jewish tradition, taking the time to answer questions and connect with the community. Stacey Leavitt-Wright, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Edmonton, was one of the faces festival goers could expect to meet as she helped ensure the smooth running of the event throughout the weekend.
The Artistic Director of the Aviv Israeli Folk Dance Association (AIFDA), Sari Uretsky, and her dancers put on eight entertaining shows over the weekend which included the vocal stylings of Emily Levine. People had the opportunity to enjoy a variety of dance routines with dancers ranging from ages 8 to those in their early twenties. In addition to the on-stage performances, Jayden Leung and Jonah Zwaigenbaum did an excellent job as MCs, making the audience laugh at their playful banter and puns.
At the end of each show, the audience got to participate in an interactive Israeli line dance which had people “dancing from the stage all the way back and up the hill,” Reboh said. Uretsky expressed her gratitude to all of the volunteers, teachers, performers, and caterers to help make the shows successful. “The Israeli pavilion really shone this year!” she shared after wrapping up for the long weekend.
Christina Reboh echoed Uretsky’s sentiments as she thanked the Jewish Federation of Edmonton staff, Susan and Ed Yedgarova, Meirav Or, and all the volunteers. “It couldn’t happen in a year’s notice without them, and it certainly couldn’t happen in ten weeks,” said Reboh. She also wanted to send a special l’heetraot to Tal Toubiana for his dedication over the years.
Even in these uncertain times, the community still showed up with enthusiasm and joy, at this year’s Heritage Festival. The Jewish Federation of Edmonton delivered a unique experience at the Israeli Pavilion, and it was made possible by the passion and support of its volunteers.
Jenna Soroka is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter.