Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Students celebrate Israel’s birthday

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Lisa R. Talley⁄Special to The Gazette
Juniors Daniel Feinberg (left to right), Amir Fogel and Raviv Brooks use music to help Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School celebrate the 60th anniversary of the independent state of Israel.
The scent of Middle Eastern food, the sound of laughter and the rhythm of Israeli folk music filled the halls of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in North Bethesda as the school community celebrated the 60th anniversary of the modern state of Israel last week.

The school’s upper campus held an all-day party Thursday that featured a morning of Israel Institute workshops focusing on the country’s culture, such as food, folk dancing, literature, theater, and history and politics, and an afternoon that featured the annual Zimriyah, a festival of Israeli song and dance.

The interactive workshops were led by parents, students, staff and invited guests.

This year’s theme of the Zimriyah was ‘‘Israeli Music though the Decades,” said Aileen Goldstein, a history teacher and coordinator of the event. Each grade, including faculty, was asked to choose a song from its assigned decade, which it performed along with an original dance and banner.

The juniors were declared this year’s first-place winners with their 1950s theme, Goldstein said.

‘‘The idea was that in addition to just celebrating the existence of the state, that everyone would come out of here knowing a little bit more about Israel and, hopefully, be able to strengthen their connections to it based on that knowledge,” Goldstein said.

Israel’s 60th Independence Day began at sundown May 7, just as its Memorial Day, also known as Yom HaZikaron, ended.

In one classroom, about 30 students explored Israeli culture through baking. Clustered around three tables, students rolled out dough for almond crescents, Israeli chocolate balls and pareve rugelach.

‘‘It’s fun, it’s food, it’s art,” Caroline Fitzpatrick, an English teacher, said as she showed students how to form the dough into crescent shapes.

At another table, a group of juniors and sophomore dipped chocolate balls into sprinkles.

Junior Daniel Greenblum, a 17-year-old from Silver Spring, said he had been looking forward to the birthday bash for weeks.

‘‘Here we get to experience Israeli activities instead of being in class,” he said. ‘‘It’s a good way to celebrate Israel’s 60th birthday.”

Down the hall, Hebrew teachers Anat Graf and Lily Zohar showed students how to make hummus using just a few key ingredients.

Using a plate already filled with the dip, Graf taught them the proper way to eat it before they began crushing chickpeas.

‘‘You clean your plate in a circular way,” she said as she demonstrated with a piece of pita. ‘‘It tastes different if you don’t do it like that.”

Miriam Cohen, whose children are in the second and 10th grades at the school, said she thought the workshops added a little something extra to the celebration.

‘‘It’s nice to give the kids the flavor of Israeli culture,” she said as she rolled up her sleeves. ‘‘You gain a lot of learning this way without even realizing it.”

Israeli folk dancing, which was led by parent Judy Kerbel, proved to be one of the most popular activities, as several students and staff clapped, spun and sang along to the lively music in the school’s main hallway.

Kerbel said she thinks she led as many as 15 dances in each of the two sessions.

‘‘In Israel on Independence Day, there’s dancing all over the country in the streets,” the Rockville resident said. ‘‘So it’s bringing a little of that flavor here.”

Jonathan Cannon, head of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, said he was enjoying the celebration along with the community.

‘‘I’m having a fabulous time,” he said. ‘‘I was in and out of about 20 of the sessions and I feel very inspired.”