By Stephen E. Lipken
An overflow crowd of approximately 400 people from Scarsdale and outlying communities poured into the Jewish Community Center of Mid-Westchester on Monday, May 1 to celebrate Israel @69, beginning with a solemn Yom Hazikaron Memorial Ceremony. It was then followed by a triumphant Yom Ha’atzmaut Israel Independence Day Celebration, sponsored by JCC-Mid Westchester; Jewish Education Project; UJA-Federation of NY and Westchester Jewish Council, coordinated by Community Shlicha Oshra Rosenberg.
Co-sponsors included AJC Westchester/Fairfield; American Friends of Mogen David Adom; Beth El Synagogue Center, New Rochelle; Camp Zeke; Friends of Israeli Defense Force (FIDF); Greenburgh Hebrew Center; Hillels of Westchester; Israel Bonds; Jewish Community Center of Harrison; Jewish National Fund; Shaarei Tikvah, Scarsdale; StandWithUs and Westchester Torah Academy, New Rochelle.
Eric Contzius of Kol Hazzanim recited Yizkor (memorial prayer) and chanted El Mole Rachamim. Rosenberg requested a Moment of Silence, observing a video of the siren, blown in Israel during Yom Hazikaron, stressing that 23,544 IDF have been killed along with 3,117 terror victims.
The video continued with a Memorial Tribute to IDF Lone Soldier First Sergeant Nissim Sean Carmeli, 21 South Padre Island, Texas, killed in Gaza on Sunday, July 20, 2014. Over 20,000 attended Sean’s evening Haifa funeral on Monday, July 21. Another American-Israeli Lone Soldier, Sgt. Max Steinberg, 24 Los Angeles was subsequently killed.
Next, Lone Soldier and StandWithUs Northeast High School Coordinator, Sgt. Josh Warhit spoke about the dichotomies between Yom Ha Zikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut; doing what is easy and what is right. “Between the comforting waters of the Mediterranean are tunnels and rockets waiting down the coast; the dichotomy is unsettling.”
Andrew H. Gross, Director of Political Affairs, Advisor to the Deputy Consul General, Consulate General of Israel pointed out that Israel lost 1% of its population in the War of Independence.
“We have done incredible things, launched satellites and cured diseases…Our sacrifices have led to an absolutely… wonderful country…,” Gross stated.
A joyous Yom Ha’atzmaut followed, featuring unbridled dancing to “Capaim” (Hebrew, “applause”) wine-tasting plus Israeli cheeses, hummus, falafel and “shakshuka” (Arabic, “mixture”), poached eggs in tomato sauce.