Members of Ottawa’s Jewish community of all ages turned out in droves, May 12, to celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut at a huge party at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre (SJCC).
This year’s Yom Ha’Atzmaut – Israel’s Independence Day – marked the 68th anniversary of the establishment of the modern state in 1948.
“For the Jews of Ottawa, this is also our holiday,” said the event chair, Shari Silber, to the large crowd of celebrants.
In her remarks, Silber highlighted some of Israel’s global contributions ranging from agricultural innovations to advancements in neuroscience.
“Today’s a day of celebration,” said Israeli Ambassador Rafael Barak, who spoke about how Israel has not only survived, but thrived, against all odds. Barak thanked Ottawa’s Jewish community for its ongoing support of Israel.
Sabina Wasserlauf, chair of the SJCC board, spoke about Ottawa’s connection to Israel, noting that many community members have taken trips to Israel. She also said that the values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law were shared by Israel and Canada.
Singer Nicole Raviv and DJ Lahit Barosh led the crowd in upbeat Israeli music, with many taking to the dance floor to show off their moves.
The Yom Ha’Atzmaut children’s programming downstairs at the SJCC drew big crowds of kids and parents for the bouncy castle, an obstacle course, balloon animals, a juggler, a circus show, arts and crafts and Israeli music.
Israeli food – including falafel, sabich and shakshuka, and desserts like cupcakes with blue and white icing and cookies in the shape of the Magen David – drew many to Babi’s Restaurant beside the SJCC social hall, and many of Ottawa’s Jewish organizations and agencies were on hand with information tables highlighting their services and activities.
Earlier in the day, about 200 community members joined dignitaries, including Mayor Jim Watson, Israeli Ambassador Rafael Barak, U.S. Ambassador Bruce Heyman, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, Rabbi Idan Scher, Cantor Pinchas Levinson, Jewish Federation of Ottawa Chair Linda Kerzner and several MPs and city councillors, for an Israeli flag-raising ceremony in front of Ottawa City Hall hosted by Federation President and CEO Andrea Freedman.
Yom Ha’Atzmaut celebrations continued on May 18 when the Embassy of Israel hosted a reception at the Fairmont Château Laurier attended by members of the diplomatic corps, cabinet ministers, MPs, Supreme Court justices, military officers and Jewish community leaders.
With files from Michael Regenstreif.