Yom Ha’atzmaut in Connecticut

Two West Hartford congregations come together for Shabbat

By Stacey Dresner

WEST HARTFORD – Two West Hartford synagogues – Beth David Synagogue and Beth El Temple – are teaming up to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of the State of Israel with a special Yom Ha’atzmaut Shabbat, to be held the weekend of April 28-29. Held at Beth David and open to the entire community, the special Shabbat will feature guest speakers from the El Al Ambassadors program and El Al’s Unity Torah.

The Shabbat celebration will begin with a Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat service at 6:30 p.m., led by Beth El’s Cantor Joseph Ness and featuring an inter-congregational choir comprised of singers from both Beth El and Beth David. It won’t be the first time the two synagogue choirs have joined forces: They sang together during an inter-congregational Shabbaton a decade ago.

The choir at that time “created a truly breathtaking experience in the sanctuary,” Beth David spiritual leader Rabbi Yitzchok Adler recalls. “I look forward to the inspiration they will bring to our prayers.”

The Friday night service will be followed by an Israeli-style dinner and speakers from the El Al Ambassadors program. The ‘ambassadors’ are members of El Al flight crews who volunteer to speak about their homeland to diaspora community.

“We are going to have a flight crew that is on a weekend layover in Boston and they will talk about what it is like to be an Israel,” explains Adler. “It‘s about life in modern-day Israel.”

The talk will be moderated by Alana Doron, a Beth David member and a native of Israel. Adler learned about the El Al Ambassadors from a piece written about them in the Jewish Ledger last fall.

“I reached out to them and committed them to the date,” says Adler. “I then reached out to some of the other congregations to see if anybody wanted to share in the Shabbat with us. We have a very proud history of hosting inter-congregational events and Beth El very graciously accepted our invitation to share Friday night with us.”

The Shabbat morning service will use El Al’s Unity Torah, a special Torah scroll that expresses the connection between Israel and the Jewish people. The Torah was written by members of the Jewish world community, including leaders, athletes, Nobel Prize winners, artists, and others. Parts of the Torah were written in places like the Great Wall of China, Auschwitz, the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the Israeli Supreme Court, the Knesset, and in cities like London and Moscow. The Torah has been read in venues all over the world.

“We will use the El Al Torah as our Torah,” Adler says. “It traveled thousands of miles with letters being completed by all sorts of different people. It really is an amazing story and more than any Torah I am familiar with, this Torah really does symbolize the unity of the Jewish people.”

And unity is the goal of the whole inter-congregational Yom Ha’atzmaut weekend celebration.

“I believe that bridges are more important than barriers in the continuity of any Jewish community,” Adler says. “And the state of Israel represents the ingathering of all Jews and a homeland for all Jews, and how better to celebrate the unity represented by the straw of Israel than by sponsoring and participating in unifying events throughout the Diaspora.”

Celebration of Israel Shabbat weekend will be held April 28-29 at Beth David, 20 Dover Road. Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat service at 6:30 p.m.; Saturday morning services, 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.; (860) 236-1241; office@bethdavidwh.org, bethdavidwh.org,. Friday night dinner: $25/adults, $15/children, $80/family max.

CAP: The El Al Ambassadors

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