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Celebrating Israel’s 64th Birthday North of Steeles Avenue

Two Yom Ha’atzmaut Events Fill the Air with Pride and Ruach
By: Daniel Horowitz
Published: May 2nd, 2012 in News » World

While Jewish communities around the world celebrated Israel’s 64th anniversary on April 26th, two festive birthday parties in honour of the Jewish state took place just north of Jewish Toronto, in York Region.

And, considering that today there are approximately 80,000 Jews living north of Steeles and that it’s the fastest growing Jewish community outside of Israel, it was the perfect place to celebrate.

Braving unseasonably cold and windy conditions, three UJA Federation-affiliated schools that sit side-by-side along the Atkinson Avenue Corridor - The North Campus of The Leo Baeck Day School, Netivot Hatorah Day School and Associated Hebrew Schools - all came together to participate in their annual festive and inspirational Yom Ha'atzmaut parade.

The three schools closed their doors for three hours while Atkinson Avenue was transformed into a sea of blue and white, lined with cheering younger students proudly waving Israeli flags and raising their voices, together in song.

'I felt really happy during the walk and about Israel turning 64,” explained Grade 4 Leo Baeck Day School student, Laila Bloomstone. “I thought about Herzel and how even before the war he wanted the Jews to have a Jewish State and today we are celebrating 64 years since Israel was established.”

One of the highlights of the celebration took place when the students reached Associated Hebrew School where they sang Hatikvah together with a Jewish school from Brazil, via Skype.

"I felt so excited to be walking along Atkinson Avenue with my Netivot students waving flags and singing songs,” said Calanit Turgeman, a Grade 5 teacher at Netivot HaTorah. “I am from Israel, and even though I am abroad, I felt so proud to be a part of this special nation - Am Israel.”

“The parade is a wonderful and integral part of Netivot HaTorah's Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration,” explained TK Rosenblum, a parent volunteer. “The students and parents all look forward being part of this exciting event. The opportunity for me to walk hand-in- hand with my children in support of Israel and to stand united as a community with hundreds of children from different Jewish backgrounds in a show of solidarity to Israel, is not only incredible to witness but is amazing to be a part of."

"It made me feel proud because we were helping to support and care for Israel," said Adam Zoltak, a Grade 4 student at Associated Hebrew Schools Kamin Education Centre.

"It was fun because we were with the other Jewish schools celebrating Yom Ha'atzmaut together," said Maggie Rappaport, a Grade 5 student at Associated Hebrew Schools Kamin Education Centre.

“I looked in front of me and saw so many people cheering,” said Adam Freedman, a Grade 4 student at Leo Baeck. “This felt like we were in Israel and made me proud to be Jewish.”

Meanwhile, at the corner of Lebovic & Ian Ramon Blvd, over one thousand community members came out to celebrate Israel's birthday at the Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Jewish Community Campus in Vaughan.

UJA Federation President & CEO Ted Sokolsky welcomed the crowd, opening the event with greetings, noting this was the first time the community had ever come together for Yom Ha'aztmaut at the Lebovic Campus, just as the new Schwartz/Reisman Centre readies to open in June.

Young families and children were entertained by jugglers, magicians, face-painters and uplifting Israeli music led by the Magan Boys. A varied array of kosher food and drinks kept the crowds energetic and ready to celebrate.

"It's a little cold," Ellie Horowitz said, "but our feelings for Israel are warm and constant, and my family wouldn't miss celebrating Israel's birthday for anything.”

The celebration concluded with live music by the Elevation Band which had community members dancing and singing until nightfall.

“As Jewish life north of Steeles continues to grow and flourish at an incredible clip, it stands to reason that celebrating Jewish life and Israel’s 64th anniversary would take to the streets of York Region,” said Ted Sokolsky, UJA Federation President & CEO. “I am proud and delighted to see our schools come together as one to honour the Jewish State’s anniversary with its annual walk along Atkinson Avenue, where these beautiful children show their love for Israel. And, to see so many members of the community come out to our celebration on the Lebovic Campus, fittingly at the corner of Lebovic & Ian Ramon Blvd, illustrates the vibrancy and growth of Jewish life to the north.”

Related articles: UJA, Israel, Birthday, Toronto, Steeles, Yom Ha'atzmaut, York Region, Jewish, Party, Leo Baeck Day School
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