Tucson to celebrate Israel with monthlong bounty of events

A parade led by the University of Arizona marching band kicks off Tucson’s 2013 Israel Festival.

In recent years, Tucson’s community-wide celebration of Israel’s Independence Day had grown from a one-day festival to a week of Tucson Celebrates Israel events. This year, in partnership with local congregations, the Weintraub Israel Center has orchestrated a month of events, beginning April 21, celebrating Israel’s 69 years of statehood and the 50-year anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. The celebrations will include films, music, lectures, parties and special services.

“This year, we expand the Israel week, thanks to the opportunities we had to partner with more organizations in our community, both the Jewish and the broader community, and to create more interesting and unique events to connect more people to Israel,” says Oshrat Barel, community shlicha (Israeli emissary) and director of the Weintraub Israel Center. “The emphasis is on creating living bridges between Tucson and Israel and I feel with the wide range of events this goal will be accomplished.”

Tucson Celebrates Israel events will begin Friday, April 21 with a Family Shabbat Israel Night service and dinner at Congregation Anshei Israel. Other special Israel Shabbat services will be held throughout the Jewish community on April 28 and 29 and May 5 and 6 (see the community calendar on page 24 for details).

The celebrations will conclude on May 21 at 7 p.m. with an encore screening of the Israeli movie “My Hero Brother” at the Tucson Jewish Community Center in partnership with the Southern Arizona Network for Down Syndrome (SANDS), the Tucson J’s special needs department and the Tucson International Jewish Film Festival. A Q&A with the Israeli filmmaker, Yonatan Nir, will follow. Free; suggested donation, $5.

The monthlong events will also include the following:

Sunday, April 30 at the Tucson J

1 p.m. — The film “Jerusalem”

National Geographic’s award-winning documentary showcases the diversity of Jerusalem and promotes the understanding of different cultures.

6:30 p.m. — Yom Hazikaron Ceremony

The annual commemoration for Israeli fallen soldiers and victims of terror will begin with a  panel discussion, “My Israel Moment,” with several of Tucson’s rabbis and Jewish leaders, facilitated by the Todd Rockoff, president and CEO of the J.

Monday, May 1 at the Tucson J

6 p.m. — ShinShinim Appreciation

A party to thank Leah Avuno and Bar Alkaher for their year of service to the Tucson community and to recognize their host families. Suggested donation of $5 per person. RSVP required at 577-9393, ext.133 or

Tuesday, May 2 at Congregation Anshei Israel

5 p.m. — Anshei Israel’s adult and youth choirs will perform a concert of Israeli music, led by cantorial soloist Nichole Chorny.

Wednesday, May 3 at the Tucson J

7-8:30 p.m. — “Survival of a Nation: Exploring Israel through the Lens of the Six Day War”

The first lecture of a six-session adult education course from the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI), co-presented by Rabbi Yehuda Ceitlin of Chabad Tucson and WIC’s Barel. Tickets for all six sessions are $99, which includes a textbook. To register, visit chabadtucson.com/IsraelCourse.

Sunday, May 7 at the Tucson J

3-6 p.m. — Israel Celebration – Family Fun Day

This year’s free Israel festival will include a PJ Library Program, Israeli picnic, art contest for kids, Israeli music and folk dance. There will be an opportunity to paint tiles for the new Sister Jose Women’s Center ($18), which is the focus of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s 70th anniversary mitzvah project.

7-9 p.m. — The Gertrude and Fred Rosen Memorial Lecture: “Bridging Through Water”

Sharon Megdal, Ph.D., director of the University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center, will present the film “Beyond the Mirage” and a Q&A on “Israel as an Innovator in Water Management and Technology.” RSVP at jfsa.org/rosenlecture.

Sunday, May 14 at Congregation Chofetz Chayim

5 p.m. — “Why is the Media Confused about Israel?”

A free lecture and dinner with award-winning journalist and author, Matti Friedman, a former Associated Press reporter and author of “The Aleppo Codex” and “Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier’s Story.” RSVP is required by May 7 at 577-9393, ext.133 or jfsa.org/mattifriedmanlecture.

The Weintraub Israel Center is a joint project of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona and the Tucson Jewish Community Center.