In a bright and lighthearted Yom Ha’Atzmaut party, families from across Ottawa’s Jewish community danced, laughed and feasted on Israeli cuisine as they celebrated Israel’s 66th Independence Day, May 6, at the Hellenic Meeting and Reception Centre.
The organizing committee set up a variety of activities that allowed for children to be more involved in their own entertainment this year by creating a “Passport to Israel” that allowed them to learn about Israel and Israeli culture while making arts and crafts projects they could bring home.
The family-oriented event, sponsored by the Soloway Jewish Community Centre, the Vered Israel Cultural and Educational Program and the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, also included buskers, stilt-walkers, face painting and Israeli folk dancing for the estimated 800 people in attendance.
“It’s become such a big party in the last few years because we’ve turned it into a celebration the way they celebrate in Israel,” said event chair Penny Torontow.
“It’s really important that we show our connection and stay united with them,” she added.
Children’s crafts and activities organizer Arielle Kreisman said she couldn’t be more excited to volunteer for one of the major events of the year, which took the supply teacher and her core volunteers about five months to plan.
“For me, I’ve gone to these events as a kid and, just coming back to the Ottawa Jewish community, I thought it was really important to get involved,” she said.
Earlier in the day, about 200 people gathered in Marion Dewar Plaza at Ottawa City Hall to see the Israeli flag raised to fly alongside the Canadian, Ontario and Ottawa flags on Yom Ha’Atzmaut.
Speakers making brief remarks at the flag-raising included Mayor Jim Watson, Israeli Ambassador Rafael Barak and Rabbi Reuven P. Bulka. O Canada and Hatikvah were sung by Cantor Jeremy Burko and the MC was Federation CEO Andrea Freedman.
Yom Ha’Atzmaut was further celebrated, May 13, at an elegant reception hosted by Ambassador Barak and the Embassy of Israel at the Fairmont Château Laurier. The event was attended by members of Parliament, including cabinet ministers, foreign diplomats, Canadian military officials and business and Jewish community leaders.
Michael Regenstreif contributed to this report.