I am thrilled to report that nearly 4,000 people came to Park Tavern on Sunday, April 29, for the Israel@70 celebration, far above expectations. What a tremendous tribute to the power of our community and our collective love for Israel!
The Atlanta Jewish community has always held big rallies when Israel was under threat, and we always stand together in commemoration of the Holocaust, but it was a profound change in our script to come together for a happy occasion.
Israel@70 was far and away the biggest event Jewish Atlanta has ever seen, and it points to an important shift in how we think about ourselves. Not as victims — and certainly not without controversy — but as resilient people who have survived, thrived and completely reinvented ourselves in the modern state of Israel.
My friend and teacher Avraham Infeld, who served as the president of Hillel International and was among the founding fathers of Birthright Israel, will be speaking at Congregation Shearith Israel this Friday evening, May 11. (The community is invited, so don’t miss it!) Infeld likes to emphasize the power of Jewish peoplehood and the idea that no matter what our politics or our level of observance, we are all mishpacha — family.
Jews are not a religion and not a nation, Avraham Infeld always says, but a people — an extension of a tribe, which in turn is an extension of a family.
This definition, he says, is critical to understanding the role of the modern state of Israel. It’s not that the Jewish people are here to ensure the future of Israel, as some may think, but rather that we built a state to ensure the future of the Jewish people.
This is what excited me most about Israel@70. The whole mishpacha was there. And most of them were people I didn’t know! We had an incredible mix of ages, a huge turnout from Atlanta’s Israeli community, from ITP and OTP, and from every organization in town.
Best of all, thousands of people who had never been to a Jewish community event before showed up, happy to be part of a joyful celebration where Jewish pride, not politics, was on display, along with great food, music, games and Israeli culture. What’s not to love?
Writing about the event, Atlanta Jewish Times Editor Michael Jacobs suggested that Israel@70 heralded the start of the “Front Porch Era,” referring to our nearly yearlong community initiative to reimagine Jewish Atlanta.
It’s a great compliment to the work we’ve been doing.
Israel@70 was all about collaboration. More than 70 agencies and organizations were involved in the planning and execution, and the collective impact, to use a strategic term from the Front Porch initiative, was a WOW.
I am grateful to the Atlanta Jewish Times for being the presenting sponsor of the event and to all our sponsors, partners and volunteers who made Israel@70 run smoothly. Let’s go forward into 5779 — which is only four months away — as one big beautiful Atlanta mishpacha.
Eric M. Robbins is the president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.