It may have begun on a dark, rainy September night, but the 6th Annual Israel Today series ended with a bang on a beautiful, warm May evening, as the Tidewater community gathered to cook with Chefs Nir Margalith and Guy Marom, of travel and culinary group Puzzle Israel. Facilitated by the Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater and the cultural arts department of the Simon Family JCC, along with community partners including organizations, and other generous supporters, Israel Today presents events focusing on the various aspects of Israeli culture, arts, and policy. It aims to spotlight the diversity of talent and people that comprise Israeli life.
Israel Today 2016–2017 began with a spotlight on diplomacy at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts when Ambassador Dennis Ross spoke about his experiences on the political scene and offered analysis about the then upcoming election and its impact on U.S.-Israeli relations. This event was in conjunction with UJFT’s Annual Campaign Kickoff and the Virginia Beach Forum.
From there, Israel Today entered the bright and colorful world of Neta Levi, Israel’s famed mixed media artist. Young and old were instantly artists and came away with masterpieces, at the Family Art Workshop. UJFT’s Women’s Cabinet and YAD’s MomMe divisions were also treated to one-on-one time with Levi and an opportunity to relax and let their creative juices run.
In November, Avi Melamed, former Israeli Intelligence officer and expert on Middle East current affairs, educated the community about the long history and events that continue to shape the conflicts in the Middle East and how these events, in turn, impact Israel.
It was all about education, culture, experience, and fun after that, as the community spent the long Virginia winter being treated to beautiful and inspiring presentations from Jill and Amnon Damti, a dancing duo, Princess Shaw’s documentary, and Mishy Harman, dynamic host of the hit podcast Israel Story and his captivating storytelling. Nothing brings people together like food, and that is exactly what Guy and Nir from Puzzle Israel did with an incredible culinary demonstration and delicious meal, following their culinary debut—serving hundreds at Israel Fest, the community celebration of Israel’s 69th birthday. Leading up to the Israel Today finale, Israel Fest encapsulated the themes showcased throughout the year and hosted a variety of cultural dimensions including among others, camel rides, a Krav Maga demonstration, IDF obstacle course, freshly made Israeli cuisine. Participants who had never been to Israel or experienced the Israeli culture felt at home and came away with a deeper understanding of what makes Israel, Israel.
“The UJFT Community Relations Council’s Israel Today series continuess to be a critically important program to raise the awareness of issues facing Israel that rarely, if never receive media coverage. This was important for the Jewish community and the community at large,” says Marty Einhorn, managing partner of Wall, Einhorn & Chernitzer, one of the series’ sponsors.
As the first year of the CRC and Cultural Arts expanded partnership, the Israel Today series offered a more diverse and enhanced lineup of events. Shikma Rubin, vice-chair of CRC’s Israel Education and Advocacy committee says, “This year was another great year for the Israel Today series. My favorite event featured Mishy Harman of Israel Story. He talked about unlikely friendships, love and the everyday people of Israel.”
One can only imagine what exciting things are in store for Israel Today 2017–2018.
For more information about the series, or to learn about sponsorship opportunities contact Wendy Weissman, assistant CRC director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Raizy Cook