"Yoms" capture our sense of community

Photo: Israeli children celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut in pre-COVID days.


Jewish Ottawa is getting set to celebrate Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut to express our solidarity with the state of Israel and to strengthen our alliance with our Jewish homeland with a variety of online events.

“Over the years Yom Ha’atzmaut has become a large community-wide celebration where Jewish and Israeli families join to mark this joyous occasion. It is one of the largest community events in Ottawa with more than 800 people involved,” said Ella Dagan, Vered Israel Cultural and Educational Program Manager.

“During the pandemic, we cannot meet, but we can continue the tradition of an event which has always bridged nations, and we can present the celebrations and programs without borders.”

The Soloway JCC is offering a virtual memorial beginning Tuesday, April 13 at 8 pm until Wednesday at 8:30 pm in honour of Yom Hazikaron with participation from members of the Israeli Defense Force, the Embassy of Israel, Jewish Federation of Ottawa, Beit Avi Hai, local clergy and community lay leaders.

“Yom Hazikaron at the SJCC is a memorial ceremony which has brought increasing numbers of Jews and Israelis together each year to remember the fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism,” said Dagan. “This year, the virtual Yom Hazikaron ceremony will continue to be a local event with participation of Ottawa community leaders, rabbis and officials from the Embassy of Israel who live in and are part of our community.”

To participate visit https://www.jccottawa.com/events/yom-hazikaron/

For Yom Ha’atzmaut, the SJCC is offering a wide variety of virtual celebrations.

“This year, Yom Ha’atzmaut allows partners to bring the best of programs from Israel and North America to our community — music and cooking demonstrations, virtual tours a Hatikvah anthem workshop and so much more, which we might not otherwise have the opportunity to experience,” said Dagan. 

To participate and for more information, visit https://www.jccottawa.com/events/yom-haatzmaut/.

Dagan says coming together on all the big “yoms” captures the sense of community that exists. 

“As Jewish people, we have a collective past experience, and coming together on all the big yoms – Yom Hashoah, Yom Hazikaron, Yom Ha’atzmaut - we show our identification and capture the sense of community that we have built,” said Dagan. “We feel connected to a larger story and feel the urge to care for the community. Today, as I think about the ways that our community is dealing with an unprecedented global health pandemic — we know that we are not alone and that we are in this together.”

It’s a particularly meaningful time for those newer to the community too, like Israeli Yasmin Vinograd, who moved to Canada from Israel in 2008 with her husband as newlyweds. 

“It’s an amazing day for us, a day to celebrate and note everything we’ve been able to achieve,” agrees Vinograd. She shares how in Israel, there are “shows and stages in every city in Israel, performers, fireworks. The day is spent with family and friends, finding a nice park to be at, BBQing, appreciating the country,” said Vinograd. 

“They do a flyby by the air force. There is an annual trivia competition ... It’s already summer there so the day is typically spent outside, celebrating with family.”

As Yom Ha’atzmaut is preceded by Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers, there is a clear message that Israelis owe independence — the very existence of the state — to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for it.

Vinograd explains that there is a switch from mourning to celebration that can be challenging and very emotional.

“For us, it’s a day of reflection,” she said. “We’re all connected. People I went to school with died in the military … it’s really an emotional day. … You slow down for a bit. You spend the day remembering the fallen and appreciating what they’ve done and what they’ve given up so we can live there and be safe.”

Dagan said that transition is what makes the days even more special.

“Both Yom Hazikaron and Ha’atzmaut are powerful days, but the fast transition from the sadness of the first into the euphoria of the second makes them even more special and significant,” she said. “Freedom is not free, and the joy of independence always reminds us of all the sacrifices, challenges, and losses we have suffered along the way.”

For a selection of virtual celebrations, please visit the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s online calendar here for a full list of events marking Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut.  Even for some events that have already taken place, you can still watch recordings of the event.