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Temple Israel of Catskill celebrates 70th anniversary

April 16, 2018 11:40 am

WOODSTOCK — A billboard-size mural of Jerusalem’s Western Wall and handmade metal roses forged from anti-Israeli missiles will be among a host of engaging sights and sounds marking Israel’s 70th anniversary at a rollicking outdoor festival 1-5:30 p.m. May 6 at Woodstock Jewish Congregation, 1682 Glasco Turnpike, Woodstock. The free public event will also feature native Israeli music, dance, storytelling, children’s activities and food. It is sponsored by the Israel Advocacy Committee of the Jewish Federation of Ulster County and supported by every Ulster County synagogue and a synagogue in Catskill.

The festival will be held inside Woodstock Jewish Congregation if it rains.

The jubilee will also celebrate Israel’s accomplishments in the arts, sciences, agriculture and other fields of achievement. The “startup nation” is widely recognized as a major player in the fields of innovation, research and development, and entrepreneurship.

In addition, Israeli artwork, ceremonial Judaica, Israeli jewelry, Israeli gifts and other handicrafts will be for sale throughout the day.

“There is much about Israel to celebrate, and this joyous party will showcase Israel like you’ve never seen it before,” said Nathan Borsky, the Jewish Federation’s vice president for Israeli advocacy and one of the festival’s organizers.

“I promise you, you won’t be bored,” he said.

The anniversary celebration will start at 1 p.m. with a special recognition of the soldiers and civilians who died in Israel’s 1948 establishment amid warfare, and in combat and terrorism in the years since.

This will be followed by high-energy singing of Israeli music, under the direction of Cantor Bob Cohen of Kingston’s Congregation Emanuel of the Hudson Valley.

Also participating in the two-hour songfest will be Rabbi Yael Romer of Congregation Emanuel, Rabbi Zoe Zak of Temple Israel of Catskill, Cantor Devorah Gartner of Kingston’s Congregation Ahavath Israel and singer-songwriter Marka Knight of Woodstock Jewish Congregation.

Dignitaries and other notable guests are to speak at 3 p.m.

The multicultural Caravan Kids dance troupe, under the direction of Livia and Bill Vanaver of the Vanaver Caravan of New Paltz, will demonstrate and perform traditional and modern Israeli folk dances to rousing music from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. The kids will also teach and lead festival-goers in those dances.

Throughout the afternoon, children and adults will be able to enjoy storytelling, interactive games and activities, culture, art and food.

“We’ll have delicious kosher food and street fare — which is so good you’ll want to book a flight to Israel,” said Shula Aizer, a Jewish Federation board member and Israeli native.

At the festival’s giant Western Wall mural, attendees will be able to write prayers on slips of paper that will later be flown to Jerusalem and placed into the cracks of the original wall, dating from the first century B.C.

The Western Wall, in Jerusalem’s Old City on the edge of a site known as the Temple Mount to Jews and the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims, is considered by Jews to be a sacred place of where the divine presence dwells. It is the holiest site where Jews can pray.

The wall, made of limestone, was built in 20 B.C. as part of an expansion of the Second Jewish Temple under Roman King Herod the Great. Ninety years later, Roman fighters destroyed the temple during a siege in A.D. 70 as punishment for Jewish unrest four years earlier that freed Jerusalem of Roman Empire rule. During the siege, the Romans regained control of Jerusalem. The Western Wall is the temple’s only remains.

At the festival, the metal roses forged from artillery rockets fired into Israel were made by Israeli artist and blacksmith Yaron Bob, who lives in the small southern Israeli town of Yated.

He makes them as part of a project he started called “Rockets Into Roses.” He says he was inspired by the biblical passage, “They will beat their swords into plowshares” (Isaiah 2:4). Many of the roses he made will be for sale.

Congregations participating in the festival are Congregation Agudas Achim, Congregation Ahavath Israel and Congregation Emanuel, all of Kingston; Congregation Ezrath Israel–Chabad of Ellenville; Kerhonkson Synagogue; Jewish Congregation of New Paltz, Chabad of New Paltz, and Kol Hai: Hudson Valley Jewish Renewal of New Paltz; Woodstock Jewish Congregation; and Temple Israel of Catskill.

For information about the festival or to be a sponsor, call the Jewish Federation at 845-338-8131, write to or visit