by Deborah Shatz
(EJNews) – Fifty years ago, at the conclusion of the Six-Day War in June 1967, Jerusalem was reunited under Jewish sovereignty – enabling it, after 2000 years of turmoil, to become a beacon for freedom and peace for all peoples.
To mark the occasion, Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) became the most recent holiday added to the Hebrew calendar. It is celebrated each year on the 28th of Iyar (six weeks after the Passover seder and one week before Shavuot).
Tens of thousands gathered in Jerusalem on Wednesday May 24 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the city’s reunification. That same day Jewish people around the world joined in the festivities. In Edmonton, community members braved some extreme weather conditions to come together and celebrate.
The city was hit hard by heavy rain and strong winds in a storm that resulted in several power outages and downed trees. The storm, however did not deter community members young and old from attending the Edmonton Yom Yerushalayim party held at (host sponsor) Talmud Torah School. The celebration was a “chai” event celebrating “Jewish life” in the community and sponsored by 18 groups and organizations within the community. The party simply moved inside.
The storm actually might have enhanced the feelings of warmth and unity for everyone who participated. Community members attended from all different religious affiliations – Beth Israel, Beth Shalom, Temple Beth Ora, Chabad – as well as individuals who have no religious affiliation. In a show of unity, the four shuls all participated as sponsors of the event. Talmud Torah students as well as those who attend other Edmonton area schools were there with their families enjoying all the activities.
Active participants included members and leaders of the other sponsoring groups – as diverse as Jewish Federation of Edmonton, Camp Gan Izzy, Jewish National Fund (Edmonton), the EDJGE, JCORE, PJ Library, Na’amat, National Council of Jewish Women, CHW, JAHSENA, CJPAC, Jewish Senior Citizens’ Centre, Jewish Family Services, Edmonton Jewish News and OPH.
There were lots of fun activities going on for children and youth to enjoy such as bouncy castles and balloon animals, games and crafts. There was plenty of space and time for friends, neighbours and families to visit, eat and schmooze. Free pizza, cake and ice cones certainly added to the atmosphere. There was a pleasant hum in the building of people speaking both Hebrew and English – all there to celebrate. But what made this event so special was that members of all of the sponsoring groups were participating by leading an activity, so it truly was a combined effort, in celebration of a united Jerusalem as well as a united Edmonton Jewish community.
In his Yom Yerushalayim address, David Cape, Chairman of Canadian Jewish Advocacy (CIJA) described Jerusalem as “the beating heart of Jewish life for thousands of years.” He wrote, “The reunification of the city was the fulfillment of the Jewish people’s yearning over millennia for a return to their spiritual and political capital.”
“Today, Jerusalem is united and thriving,” continued Cape. “The city’s holy sites are open to worshippers from all faiths, and moving from one area of the city to another is a seamless experience. As Jews around the world mark Yom Yerushalayim today, the reunification of Jerusalem, let us advance unity within our own communities.”
Beth Israel Rabbanit Batya Friedman has taken this message to heart for the past several years and networked to make the Edmonton Yom Yerushalayim celebration truly a Community Unity Event. Kol Hakavod to her and her committee Jerry, Yaara, Eleanor, Yulia and Francie for organizing the event and to all the sponsoring organizations for their contributions. The Talmud Torah gym was brimming with all the vibrant components that make up our Jewish community.
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