On the last Friday before Spring Break, the 8th grade class of Mandel JDS (along with their parents, and the entire school) stood proudly in front of the Israeli flag, singing Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem. This tradition, commemorating the eighth grade’s upcoming voyage to Israel, has been around for nearly as long as the annual pilgrimage itself.
In 1995, a small group of people associated with the Jewish Federation of Cleveland went on a scouting mission to Israel. That weeklong trip turned into a 20-year partnership with Beit Shean and Valley of Springs, resulting in numerous new programs and initiatives and impacting thousands of people.
Life in Israel is more than what you read in the news. This time of year, Jews all over Israel are getting ready to celebrate Purim! Bags of pre-packaged mishloach manot filled with oznei Haman (hamentashen), candy, games, drinks, masks and more have been on sale in the supermarkets for weeks. Costumes of all sizes and funny hats are sold in small stores on almost every block. Children, teens and even adults appear on the streets in costumes, hats or bits of make-up. Jerusalem billboards announce a myriad of upcoming parties all over the city. Even during the Jerusalem Marathon this past Friday, there was a festive atmosphere as the city’s residents came out en masse to cheer 25,000 friends and relatives.
CLEVELAND – The Jewish Federation of Cleveland is proud to announce a historic celebration marking a 20-year partnership with its sister city of Beit Shean and Valley of Springs, Israel. The event, Celebrate our Partnership, will explore the incredible impact Cleveland has had on its sister city and how residents from both communities have created personal, powerful bonds. All are invited to attend and experience the connection through live music by HaZamir: The International Jewish High School Choir, a theater performance by Playmakers Youth Theatre, stunning images from local photographers, plus speeches by public officials, honoring of past chairs, and more. The event takes place on March 30 at 7 p.m. at the Mandel Jewish Community Center (26001 S. Woodland Road, Beachwood).
I grew up in Tomsk, Siberia (formerly part of the Soviet Union). Unlike Cleveland, Tomsk has a very small Jewish community with just one synagogue. Many of the Jews who live here don’t call themselves Jews. Some are scared to reveal this because it brings back memories of anti-Semitism. For others like my parents, it doesn’t mean much because they were raised under the Soviet Union where religion was outlawed. To them, their Jewish identity is not important.
Many Jewish children in the former Soviet Union grow up unaffiliated. Summer camp, as discussed earlier this month at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s Mandel Building in Beachwood, is a key way for those Jews to connect with their heritage.