A birthday party for Israel, in Paramus

A birthday party for Israel, in Paramus

The Maccabeats
The Maccabeats

To celebrate Israel’s 70th birthday, the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey is throwing a house party.

Actually, it’s a yard party — the entire cul-de-sac in Paramus where the federation has its offices will be closed off from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 10, for the celebrations. There will be a bouncy house and arts and crafts for children, as well as the opportunity to write letters to lone soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces. (Federation leaders plan on sending at least 500 of them.) The Maccabeats will sing, there will be Israeli dancing and food, and Silvio Berlfein, the popular and charismatic program director of the New Jersey Y Camps, will oversee the afternoon.

“We want to celebrate in our community, with our community,” Roberta Abrams said. Ms. Abrams is the incoming president of the federation (she takes office on July 1) and has been involved in the planning of the Israel at 70 event.

That’s why it’s a community event, not just a federation event. The federation has reached out to its agencies and the community’s synagogues and day schools to participate “and make this really special,” Ms. Abrams said. “We’re not doing this alone.”

Ms. Abrams grew up in Woodcliff Lake. She now lives in Montvale. At 52, she not only doesn’t remember Ben Gurion declaring the State of Israel’s independence, she doesn’t even remember the Six Day War.

Silvio Berlfein

“I have no memory of Jerusalem not being whole,” she said. “It’s like the George Washington Bridge having only one level” — something she heard stories about, that happened before she was old enough to notice.

She was 13 when she first visited Israel. “It was a UJA mission,” she said. “A friend of mine was having his bar mitzvah in Israel. They had two buses: one for the adults, and one for the kids.

“It was such a perfect time to experience Israel. We had Passover at an army base. We went up to the top of Masada in the morning.”

Ms. Abrams was offered the chance to celebrate her bat mitzvah there on Masada. Her best friend chose to do so, but she made the opposite choice. “I felt that as meaningful as it is to have your bat mitzvah and read from the Torah on Masada, I wanted to celebrate my bat mitzvah at home,” she said. “I wanted my grandmothers and my friends and my extended family to be there. To me that’s what becoming a bat mitzvah was about.”

And that’s why Ms. Abrams, who went to Israel three times last year, is so excited about celebrating Israel’s milestone anniversary outdoors, on a closed-off Paramus street.

“That’s what so beautiful about celebrating Israel at 70 in New Jersey,” she said. “We can celebrate it in the streets. We can literally shout our pride and love for Israel. I’m so grateful that we can do it.”

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