It’s not an occasion that the JCC has celebrated in recent memory, and maybe that’s part of the reason it’s creating so much excitement. It’s also different for the “J” to be holding an event at the Cabot Theater in Beverly rather than at its Marblehead community center. “We’re looking to really expand our reach with this event – to the larger Jewish community on the North Shore,” said Marty Schneer, Executive Director of the JCCNS.
The idea started to take shape when a board member of Symphony by the Sea (SBS), now based at the Cabot, suggested to Schneer last summer that the JCC and the symphony put on a Klezmer concert together to celebrate Hanukkah. “The symphony had done a Klezmer concert before, which was a big hit, when we were still based in Marblehead, and we were looking for a partner to do another with the promotional power to make it into a big event,” explained SBS founder Bev Clark. Marty liked the idea, but thought Hanukkah was too soon, so he said, “Let’s do it as a celebration of Israeli Independence Day.”
And just like that, a tradition was born. At least, that’s what everyone involved expects. Part of the energy behind the idea, according to Schneer, is that while the JCC is sponsoring the celebration (“I went to my generous community and raised about $10,000 to make it possible,” he said), it’s an event that “pulls the community together.” In addition to the symphony, “there will be performers from Temple Emanu-El, from Shirat Hayam, from Cohen Hillel Academy and from Temple Sinai,” explained Schneer. And Chabad of the North Shore, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Cohen Hillel and the Lappin Foundation are co-sponsors of the anniversary celebration on April 30. “So it’s a real community event,” he said.
“Klezmer music is traditional Yiddish dance music,” said Clark, who is a professional flute player who started the symphony 35 years ago. “Hava Nagila is a famous klezmer style song.” Many different instruments are used in klezmer music, including clarinet, flute, accordion and violins.
But the purpose of the date is something Schneer wants everyone to stay focused on. “It’s really to celebrate Israel’s birthday and the miracle of Israel, our ancient homeland that is embattled around the world for no reason,” said Schneer. “It’s not about politics, not about Netanyahu, it’s about the people and the land of Israel,” said Schneer. “I really want people to be able to come together – young and old – to come together and have a celebration.”
Schneer notes the shifting politics in this country regarding Israel. “While most Americans feel positively about the State of Israel, unfortunately there is still a segment that continues to demonize the independent state and many people don’t necessarily like to be associated with something that others are demonizing. It takes a certain degree of strength in one’s Jewish identity to stand up to the Jewish haters, but we must stand up. And what better way to stand up to the negativity than to celebrate the resilience of our homeland,” he said. Israeli independence, or Yom Ha’atzmaut, is traditionally a unifying event for American Jews, and that’s something that the JCC is committed to supporting. “There is a lot of love for Israel here, and we want to promote that.”
The concert is “A Family Friendly Event for the Entire Community.” “We’re excited to provide a celebration that allows local people to ignite and revitalize their personal connection and support for the state of Israel,” continued Schneer. “Am Yisrael Chai!”