Do your friends think you're full of hot air – enough to give the shofar a good strong blast?
If so, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia is looking for your help on May 21, when the entire community will come together on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to celebrate Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israel Independence Day. Organizers of this year's simcha, "Israel in Our Hearts," are seeking healthy sets of lungs to sound the shofar 58 times – one for each year of Israel's independence – and inviting everyone to enjoy the plentiful food, activities, fireworks and entertainment.
"We're trying to celebrate Yom Ha'atzmaut in the Israeli way, with live concerts and fireworks, that will build connections between us," says Asaf Romirowsky, Israel-affairs associate for Federation's Center for Israel and Overseas, which organizes the annual event. "It's an important part of our goal to make that a top priority for people regardless of where they stand in the political spectrum."
This year's event is co-chaired by Jeff Perlman, Cindy Smukler Dorani and Ian Michel.
The 58 shofar blasts to signify Israel's freedom will kick off the event, which is scheduled from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. There will be something for everyone at this year's festival, which will culminate in performances by Reva L'Sheva, Israel's leading traditional Jewish rock band, and renowned recording artist and composer Yoni Rechter.
Street performers will entertain young and old up and down the Parkway between 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., while choirs, performing-arts groups and Israeli dancing with RAK-DAN will take place in the Entertainment Pavilion. Celebrants of all ages are invited to ride a camel, browse Israeli crafts and other offerings in the marketplace, and enjoy cooking demonstrations and samples at the ShopRite "Taste of Israel" Pavilion.
They can marvel at Israel's prowess in the airline technology industry at the Science Pavilion, or check out the archaeological dig and period characters at the History Pavilion. Basketball and soccer enthusiasts can experience Israel's commitment to sports excellence at the Junior Maccabi Sports Pavilion.
Several activities will especially appeal to teens, who can make a temporary henna tattoo, purchase engraved rice jewelry and dog tags, and get their hair braided. And at the "teen scene" tent, they can chill out together to the sounds spun by a D.J. and show off their fancy "Dance Dance Revolution" footwork.
Festival-goers can enjoy a little shade in the Bedouin tent, which will feature a coffeehouse for young professionals at 5:30 p.m. And throughout the evening, a variety of Israeli and local foods will be sold to satiate appetites. Reva L'Sheva is scheduled to take the main stage at 6:45 p.m., followed by Yoni Rechter at about 7:45 p.m. and fireworks at 8:45 p.m. to end the evening with a bang.
Event sponsors are ShopRite; Blank Rome LLP; Boscov's; Fairmount Park Commission; Consulate General of Israel in Philadelphia; the Jewish Publishing Group, publishers of the Jewish Exponent and Inside magazine; and Fox Rothschild.
Attendance is free, but registration is required. Log on to: www.jewishphilly.org, or sign in at the event. To volunteer as a shofar-blower, call 215-832-0537. For general info, call 215-832-0630.