By Stephen E. Lipken
“Westchester Celebrates Israel@68,” was held at the JCC of Mid-Westchester, Scarsdale on Wednesday, May 11, beginning with a Yom Hazikaron Memorial Ceremony, followed by Yom Ha’atzmaut Israel Independence Day celebrations.
The event attended by 300 people, began with a video of a long, wailing siren, blown to commemorate the 23,477 soldiers who died defending Israel and 2,576 victims of terrorism. Westchester County Shaliach Yoav Cohen welcomed the community, citing many songs written in tribute to victims of terrorism and the Holocaust and asked the audience to stand for his recitation of Yizkor and El Maleh Rahamim, sung by the Kol Hazzanim Cantor Sarah Zemel.
BBYO member Josh Greenspan read a letter written by Ruth Schwartz, mother of Ezra Schwartz shot by terrorists, saying that mundane household chores helped her to compensate “for the lack of my control to protect you.”
AFMDA volunteer Tzivia Wise recounted her traumatizing experience of unsuccessfully trying to revive a dying 80-year old man and later making a medical call in an Arab village with a military escort.
Mallory Kovit, Hillels of Westchester talked about her Birthright experience with fellow Hillel handicapped student, Emet, confined to a wheelchair. Through Israel Outdoors, Kovit arranged for accessible hotels and at one point, gave him a “piggyback” ride down a Negev trail.
Yom Ha’atzmaut activities included a teen hummus cooking program and “Cupcake Challenge” for grades 7 through 12, conducted by celebrity chef Susie Fishbein as well as AFMDA; JNF; “Sportalk” an Israeli sports Social Media App; jewelry, Israeli Folk Dancing; artwork by Michal Nachmany, plus New Rochelle artist Fred Spinowitz, who created a special painting in memory of Ezra Schwartz and “S’derot,” depicting the often-attacked town.
“My S’derot painting shows a shelter entrance painted to look like a cartoon animal so that the children would not be unduly frightened. Kindergarten teachers wrote songs for kids to sing, going into the shelters. I belong to Art League Defending Israel (ALDI), memorializing those killed by terror.”