Teaneck’s West Englewood Avenue on Sunday was loud and crowded, just like the famous Israeli street it channeled for the day, and just as David Hyman had hoped. The Ben Yehuda Street Fair drew as many as 3,000 people at any one time during the afternoon, according to police estimates and leaders of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey hailed it as a giant success in celebrating Israel’s 60th anniversary.
Cantor Ilan Mamber of Temple Beth Rishon in Wyckoff leads the Bergen County chapter of Hazamir in Israeli songs. Courtesy UJA-NNJ
"We wanted this Ben Yehuda fair for Israel’s 60th birthday to be something people would not forget and I really believe we accomplished that," said Gale S. Bindelglass, the event’s co-chair and mistress of ceremonies.
"It was like all the pieces fell in their exact place," said Hyman, UJA-NNJ’s Israel shaliach and one of the event’s organizers. "The biggest achievement was the turnout. People really showed their support . Israel’s a great reason for people to get together. It was the place to be."
You get the best balloons on "Ben Yehuda Street." UJA-NNJ
The day was marked by visits from New Jersey’s Gov. Jon Corzine, U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, and thousands of people from across the area to visit the 40 vendors selling jewelry, maps of Israel, fresh baked pita, and more.
Weinberg presented Corzine with a commemorative plate, bought by her mother, that was issued at the founding of the State of Israel. "It was a fund-raiser for people to contribute to the birth of this new nation," she told this newspaper. "She gave it to me ‘5 years ago."
"On May 1′ and 13," Weinberg noted, "there will be a display at the state house in honor of the 60th anniversary of various archival documents and memorabilia that the state has as well as anything else people might have [contributed]."
"To see the celebration of Israeli people and food and the overall energy of Israel represented in Teaneck at our own Ben Yehuda Street was such a joy," said Bindelglass, "The most satisfying thing was the bringing together of all segments of our beautiful Jewish community, all having fun and socializing."
Teaneck’s Mayor Elie Katz, Gov. Jon S. Corzine, and Deputy Consul Benjamin Krasna of the Israeli Consulate in New York were among the attendees at Sunday’s Ben Yehuda Street Fair in Teaneck. Courtesy Governor’s Office
Not everybody at the fair had fun, though. A group of anti-Zionist rabbis, mostly from Monsey, N.Y., joined by a lone Palestinian, appeared briefly across the street from the fair to protest. Their presence went largely unnoticed, said UJA-NNJ staff.
People "didn’t even see the demonstrators," Hyman said, adding that many people he spoke to didn’t realize there had been protestors until they read about it in Monday’s Record. "I don’t think they had any effect whatsoever," he said.
Although the fair was planned for Israel’s 60th anniversary, federation staffers were open to the idea of holding one like it next year.
"It should be repeated," Hyman said. "It’s exactly UJA’s role to unify everyone."