May 24, 2024
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Bergen County Sends Love to Israel on Yom Ha’Atzmaut

A 4,000-strong Bergen County Jewish community gathered in Votee Park in Teaneck for a combined marking of Yom HaZikaron and a celebration of Yom Ha’Atzmaut. Pictured is Teaneck’s Eitan Rosenbaum. (Credit: Marc Melzer)

 

As the skies darkened on Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s memorial day, songs of love, words of inspiration and achdut (unity) were shared by more than 4,000 people, many of whom had draped themselves with Israeli flags, waved flags or wore similar pro-Israel garb, who had gathered at the Milton Votee Park Sportsplex in Teaneck to mark the day. Babies, children, teens, parents and seniors melded together as a cohesive group united by their love of the Jewish state. As evening fell, the beginning of Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel’s independence day, was experienced on a new and energetic level by everyone present.

Naomi Knopf, chief impact officer, Jewish Federation of North Jersey speaking. (Credit: Tzvi Allen Fishman)

Beset by anti-Jewish and anti-Israel protests in recent months, the mostly Teaneck and Bergenfield residents came out in force to a tightly secured event that was expertly planned and prepared for any eventuality. Scores of Teaneck police officers, a large team of 42 CSS (Community Security Service) members, Bergen County Chaverim, Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps and Bergen Hatzolah were visible and made sure that the event went on peacefully for all attendees. Organizers checked tickets as celebrants arrived, so that all attendees felt secure and able to celebrate their faith and religious identity without fear.

Prayer for Israeli Soldiers. (Credit: Tzvi Allen Fishman)

The interactive event was marked by speeches by Congregation Rinat Yisrael’s Rabbi Chaim Strauchler as event organizer, Chaim Kiss’ trademark focus on organizing and highlighting local musical talent, a boisterous Kahoot trivia game focused on Israel’s history that helped all the kids scratch their digital Q&A itches; and a video called To Israel: With Love, New Jersey. The video was truly a love letter to Israel, and included all that has and has not been said about the difficult period that has been shared by local residents since October (See the text of the video, by Rabbi Strauchler, on page 90). The video highlighted, in words, pictures and video footage, the last six months of collective experiences by the global Jewish community, including the atrocities and aftermath of October 7, 2023, and New Jersey’s Jewish communal reaction; by joining missions of support in force, collecting items in bulk for soldiers and survivors, and demonstrating for and defending Israel repeatedly in many ways.

Local Israeli soldiers recently returned home: (l-r) Staff Sergeant D. Schechter; Captain Chaim Meisels; Rabbi and Sergeant Ari Abramowitz with his children, Yehudis and Avraham Moshe. (Credit: Tzvi Allen Fishman)

As the skies got dark and “Hatikvah” was led by local a capella talent and sung by the crowd, the evening’s highlight, an aerial drone show, captured the imaginations of everyone present. Set to contemporary Israeli music, the coordinated drones formed words like “Bring them Home” and shapes including the Israeli and American flags during the astonishing seven-minute performance. The drones formed the number “220” indicating the number of days that the hostages have been held, and formed a yellow ribbon and the Tzahal crest. Cheers erupted from every corner of the sportsplex as the drone show concluded. Finally, DJ-NAY (Jonah Nayowitz) and Netanel Katz, the dance motivator who certainly lived up to his energetic name Simcha on Wheels, led the whole stadium in a loud and wild celebration of Israel, with high energy Jewish music that everyone enjoyed.

Attendees at the park.
(Credit: Tzvi Allen Fishman)

As attendees filed out to return to their homes, voices of thanks were heard as each resident passed a uniformed police officer or CSS volunteer, making sure that those who keep us safe know that we appreciate and value their efforts and the country where many of us were born.

(l-r) Netanel Katz with soldiers on stage at
Votee Park. (Credit: Tzvi Allen Fishman)

Organizer Rabbi Strauchler made sure the “Yom Ha’atzmaut Experience” committee were thanked, noting that the following individuals had worked for many months to create and execute the event: Allie Orgen, Batya Friedman, Ben Kohn, Chaim Kiss, Deena Seelenfreund, Elissa Yurowitz, Eric Segal, Ephie Mandel, Golan Elias, Karen Orgen, Nissan Clark, Rocky Selevan, Whitney Blom and Yehuda Kohn. He also thanked musical guests Mordy Weinstein, Ari Greene, R. Aryeh Tiefenbrunn, Jacob Spadaro and the TABC STUDIO 1600 CHOIR, including Aron Major, Jacob Oustacher, Eytan Goldstein, Akiva Greengart, Jonah Miller, Yakir Adams, Reuven Goldberg, Netanel Kalb, Shimon Segal, Nati Rottenstreich, Etiel Knoll, Eli Hochberg, Eitan Popowitz, Noam Simon and Moshe Rosenfeld.

Drone Show. (Credit: Tzvi Allen Fishman)

 

Drone Show. (Credit: Tzvi Allen Fishman)

 

(Credit: Marc Melzer)

 

(Credit: Marc Melzer)

 

(Credit: Marc Melzer)

 

(Credit: Marc Melzer)
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