On Sunday, April 2, the Chabad Centers of Westchester County and the Bronx will host a pre-Passover Jewish Family Festival. Just three days before the holiday starts, the local Chabad centers have arranged a fun-filled afternoon of entertainment and hands-on Passover activities. The highlighted entertainment includes a live concert with Pumpidisa, one of Jewish music’s most popular bands. While these artists are all from the New York Jewish communities, most of the band’s members spent years living in Israel, which has become the source of the young, enthusiastic and worldly musicians’ core creative inspiration. Chabad will be welcoming families of all backgrounds and faiths to the event, which is free of charge, and will be held from 3-5 p.m. on the South Lawn of Ridge Hill, in Yonkers, New York.
The event will also include a petting zoo, Marc the Music Man, Passover crafts, balloon artists, face painting, remarks by local elected and public officials, and kosher food for purchase. The project, entitled “Jewish Family Festival,” is a joint project of the combined Chabad centers of Westchester and the Bronx, a group of organizations that empower Jews of all walks of life to come together to celebrate their heritage. Participants will enjoy family fun for all ages as a perfect start to getting into the Passover spirit in a way of inclusion and awareness.
Rabbi Levi Groner, co-director of Chabad of Pelham, one of the Chabad centers collaborating on the event, explained: “This is a Hakhel year, which is a special year. It has an emphasis on bringing people together for an inspiring, uplifting event—Hakhel or gathering, marked with Jewish gatherings focused on unity, Torah learning and practice.”
Rabbi Groner added: “This year, we had the idea to do an event pre-Passover. We decided to create a concert and festival since this is a special year, a Hakhel year. Hakhel occurs every seven years, in the year which follows the shemitah year in Israel. At the time of the Beit Hamikdash, Hakhel was observed at Sukkot when all the Jewish people would gather in the Beit Hamikdash. It was like re-experiencing the giving of the Torah. The Jewish people were together, uplifted and empowered.
“The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson taught that since we do not have the Beit Hamikdash, we can not do Hakhel literally, but we can try to do something with the idea of getting together, in Jewish unity, for something positive and inspirational. I don’t know if there is any better time than before Pesach, the most observed Jewish holiday. Pesach is a time when we can all get together and is, therefore, a special time to have this event.”
Rabbi Groner continued: “As the Jewish community prepares to mark the festival of our freedom, we’re looking forward to welcoming the community to join us in celebration. Our goal is to lower the barriers to Jewish engagement and ensure everyone feels welcome, included and has the opportunities and resources they need to celebrate the holiday.
“The Jewish Family Festival draws inspiration from the Rebbe, as part of a global Passover campaign that he began in 1954, when he launched the Shmurah Matzah initiative to create awareness and promote observance of the holiday.”
For more information about the Jewish Family Festival at Chabad of Westchester County, visit www.jewishfamilyfestival.org
Chabad of Westchester County is made up of 12 Centers across Westchester. They are dedicated to building on the philosophy and mission of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement by providing Jewish communities the education and resources they need in order to celebrate their culture and engage in Jewish practice in an easy and accessible way. Chabad of Westchester County engages Chabad’s network of human and educational resources to create a culture of inclusion so that all Jews feel welcomed, supported and valued throughout their entire lifecycle.
By Judy Berger