By Laura Porter
WORCESTER – Israel turns 70 this year, and the Central Massachusetts community will come together in a family-friendly celebration for the milestone birthday, free and open to all.
On April 29th, an afternoon dessert reception at Cyprian Keyes in Boylston will honor this year’s recipients of the Israel Bonds Israel Unity Awards as well as the graduating seniors from the Hebrew high schools in Westborough and Worcester. Shir BaEmek Choir from Afula, the region’s sister city in Israel, will perform, and the current Young Israeli Emissaries will lead a craft project for children.
Historically, the annual presentation of the Israel Unity Award has been held as a distinct event to honor someone in the Central Mass community who has shown tremendous leadership and service. For the past several years, a junior award has also been awarded, singling out accomplished and passionate young people.
“It had really become a signature event that brought the community together very effectively,” says Mary Jane Rein of the yearly reception. Rein, Robert Adler, Andrew Freedman and Liz Baker make up what she calls “a quartet” that has worked together for years, she and Baker as event chairs and Adler and Freedman as Central Mass. chairs for Israel Bonds.
Over time, they have considered a variety of innovations to the presentation program, hoping “to make it more relatable, more community-oriented” in a way that serve the constituencies of Jewish Central Mass.
Two years ago, when Steven Schimmel became the new executive director of the Jewish Federation of Central Massachusetts, “we had an opportunity to do it a little bit differently from the past,” says Rein.
A broad collaborative event geared to the whole community, including young people and families, seemed ideal. The group “spearheaded the idea with Steven, who has been on board from the very beginning,” says Liz Baker. In turn, Schimmel approached Jonathan Lang, executive director of Israel Bonds Boston, who offered his full support. Rabbi Joe Eiduson, principal of Congregation B’nai Shalom Chai School, and Wendy Wong, principal of Worcester Hebrew High School, welcomed the collective approach as well.
Federation had already issued an invitation to Shir BaEmek Choir to celebrate Israel’s 70th birthday.
“We thought their performance would serve as a perfect opportunity to come together for a community wide celebration of Israel,” says Mary Jane Rein. “We are all working together to increase community engagement with Israel and to support Israel through the sale of bonds.”
“Celebrating Israel at 70” will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. on Sunday, April 29th and begin with refreshments, which will include desserts and fruit prepared by Cyprian Keyes. During this time, this year’s Young Israeli Emissaries, Tamar Melech and Stav Attias, will lead children and students in decorating tiles with an Israel or birthday theme; at the end of the afternoon, the tiles will be put together to create the number 70.
The Jewish War Veterans are this year’s recipients of the Israel Unity Award, and Jack Reiff will accept on their behalf. Junior honorees are Ethan Spaulding (Worcester Hebrew High) and Kayla Goldstein (Congregation B’nai Shalom Chai School).
The concert by Shir BaEmek Choir will follow, and the young people present will sing “Hatikvah” with the choir.
“We expect a great turnout for this community-wide event that celebrates Israel’s milestone anniversary and also promotes Israel Bonds and the connection to our sister city Afula,” Schimmel says. “This will be a fun day and also a time to reflect and honor our Jewish War Veterans and our graduating seniors – two generations supporting and connecting to Israel today and leading our connection to Israel in the future.”
There is no charge to attend, but those interested should RSVP to Lisa at (508) 756-1543.