Celebrating a yearlong milestone

An Israeli flag on a pole waves in a blue sky
Many Israelis keep in close touch with their American cousins — including members of Birmingham’s Jewish community.

This year marks the 75 years since Israel’s founding in 1948. In celebration of this important milestone, The J has teamed up with the Birmingham Jewish Federation’s Israel Committee to present a range of activities throughout the year — from teaching Krav Maga and folk dancing to sending a team of teens to the JCC Maccabi Games in Israel. And this year’s Jewish Food and Culture Fest will offer myriad opportunities to learn about Israel. More events will be added to this list throughout the year.

Krav Maga

Originally developed by a Hungarian Jew named Imi Lichtenfeld in Czechoslovakia in the 1930s to help Jews defend themselves, Krav Maga was later adopted and developed further by the Israel Defense Forces. 

Earlier this month The J started teaching the Israeli martial art to a group of youth ages 8-12, under the instruction of local black belt Bobby Dixon. Look for Bobby’s Krav Maga demonstration during the April 30 Jewish Food and Culture Fest.

Israeli folk dance class

Monday, April 3, 6-7:145 p.m. at The J

All are invited to “journey to Israel through dance and music” through an Israeli folk dance class taught by Anna Redensky with assistance from our local shinshinim, two recent Israeli high school graduates who are performing a year of service in Birmingham. No prior dance experience is necessary for this event that is sponsored by the Birmingham Jewish Federation. Please register in advance.

Jewish Food and Culture Fest

Some 2,000 people showed up for last year’s Jewish Food and Culture Fest.

In addition to serving up lots of traditional Jewish foods prepared right here in our kosher kitchen (corned beef sandwiches, matzah ball soup, brisket, bourekas, falafel, mandelbrot, and more), the Jewish Food and Culture Fest on April 30 will feature a plethora of activities related to celebrating Israel’s anniversary.

Thanks to support from the Birmingham Jewish Foundation, our expanded Yom Ha’Atzmaut celebration will include a small-scale recreation of a lively bazaar, or shuk. Visitors will enjoy free samples of various spices, sweets, dried fruits, and nuts while getting a feel for an iconic element of daily life in Israel. Other Yom Ha’Atzmaut elements of the Food Fest will include:

  • Also thanks to the Birmingham Jewish Foundation, our local shinshinim will host four educational activity stations that highlight various Israeli cities, plus an archeological dig site for kids.
  • A demonstration of Israeli folk dances
  • A demonstration of the Israeli martial art Krav Maga (see above)
  • Lots of giveaway items tied to Israel’s birthday

Israel at the movies

Starting in May, The J’s popular Monday Matinee program (Mondays at 1:30 p.m., showtime at 2 with complimentary snacks) will show Israeli movies at the beginning of each month, including:

  • May 1: The Band’s Visit is a 2007 romantic drama about eight members of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra who mistakenly end up in a small town in the Negev Desert.
  • June 5: Maktub is a 2017 comedy about two low-level mobsters in Jerusalem who change their ways after surviving a bombing and set about making strangers’ Wailing Wall prayers come true.
  • July 3: The Wedding Plan is a 2017 romantic comedy about a woman who decides to keep the reservation for her canceled wedding while trusting God to provide her with a husband.
  • August 7: The Women’s Balcony is a 2016 dramatic comedy where an accident during a bar mitzvah celebration leads to a gender rift in a devout Orthodox community in Jerusalem.

JCC Maccabi Games

Our LJCC team’s trip to the JCC Maccabi Games in Israel is made possible by the Birmingham Jewish Foundation’s Maurine and Leroy Monsky Fund.

The three-week JCC Maccabi games will bring together as many as 1,000 Jewish teens from around the world to compete July 5-25 in baseball, basketball, ice hockey, volleyball, flag football, soccer, tennis, and swimming. The LJCC is proud to be sending a team of teens under the direction of Community Engagement Director Katie Hausman Grace and Membership Director Cody Bass. 

“This is a great group of kids, and I’m thrilled for them and all they’re going to get from this experience,” Katie says. She should have some idea of what to expect — not only from her prior trips, but because she played a major role in the JCC Maccabi Games when The J was selected to host the global event in Birmingham in 2017. “That was so much work and so rewarding,” she recalls. “But this time, in Israel, I’m looking forward to someone else doing most of the planning and for our group to have a rewarding athletic and eye-opening cultural experience.”

The wines of Israel

Noah is often credited with being the first to cultivate a vineyard — the start of a long and rich tradition in Israel. Today the country is host to more than 300 wineries.

Join us on November 4 for a 90-minute education wine-tasting session with Steve Kerbel. The event will take you on a virtual tour of Israel as you explore geography, winemaking, and stories of the wines and their wine makers. Details forthcoming.