Welcome to Israel — in Teaneck

Welcome to Israel — in Teaneck

Because of Teaneck’s large number of synagogues and mosques, The New York Times a few years ago dubbed it "the Jerusalem of the West." That moniker will become a little truer this Sunday as the aroma of shwarma and the sounds of vendors shouting in Hebrew, hawking their wares, fill the air as UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey transforms part of Teaneck into a replica of Jerusalem’s Ben Yehuda Street.

UJA-NNJ will recreate Jerusalem’s Ben Yehuda Street on Sunday in Teaneck.

West Englewood Avenue and Votee Park will mimic the famous pedestrian mall for the Ben Yehuda Street Fair as part of the federation’s celebration of Israel’s 60th anniversary. Israeli musicians will entertain while people visit booths manned by local kosher restaurants and more than 40 Israeli and local merchants. Because of the blue laws restricting Sunday shopping, clothing — except for ritual wear — will not be sold. However, vendors will sell crafts, jewelry, art, kippot, and "everything short of what’s not allowable," said street fair co-chair Leslie Billet. The fair has been several months in the planning.

"We’ve never done a street fair and certainly not [an event] of this magnitude," said Billet. "This may be the biggest thing we’ve ever done."

Israeli Scouts from Tenafly and Fair Lawn will hold children’s activities and a Teaneck hobby store will offer kites emblazoned with the Israeli flag. A booth will also be set up for people to send cards to the residents of Sderot, which has taken heavy damage from Hamas rocket fire.

In addition to the West Englewood restaurants, which will offer outside dining, and the other food vendors, UJA-NNJ has arranged for a taboun, an open-air stove traditionally used to bake pita and laffa breads. As people browse the shops and munch on falafel, eight bands and ” area cantors will play through the day. Organizers also hope visitors will pick up on another favorite Israeli pastime: impromptu soccer. David Hyman, UJA-NNJ’s Israel shaliach and one of the event’s organizers, said he wants to recreate "the atmosphere of what happens in Israel."

"I want it to be loud and noisy, just like in Israel," he said. Eight Israel and Jewish advocacy groups will also set up in an area designated as the shuk. The Israel Project, CAMERA, the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, and other organizations will hand out information to get people interested in acting on Israel’s behalf.

The federation has scheduled some big names to come to Teaneck to help honor Israel. Scheduled to speak are Gov. Jon Corzine and Israel’s Deputy Consul General Ben Krasna. Sen. Frank Lautenberg is also expected to make an appearance.

The afternoon-long street fair is part of the federation’s series of Israel at 60 celebrations, which will culminate next month with an all-star concert at BergenPAC in Englewood. Area shuls as well as the YJCC in Washington Township, the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly, and the YM-YWHA of North Jersey in Wayne have scheduled events throughout the year marking Israel’s anniversary and all been branded under the Israel@60 logo through the federation.

Planning for the fair began about six months ago, just after the Great Shofar Blowout, which kicked off UJA-NNJ’s Israel at 60 celebration. Organizers said they were encouraged by the success of the blowout and wanted to hold another event before the concert.

"We saw we could do an outdoor event. We wanted to take it to one notch higher," Hyman said. "It’s a series of events celebrating Israel’s 60th. The significance of this one is it’s out in the public space and it’s open to everyone. Once in a decade it’s nice to get everyone together and do one big event. Israel brings everyone together."

For more information on the street fair or Israel at 60 celebrations around the area, visit www.ujannj.org/israelat60.

read more: