The Young Israel of Oceanside marked Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut with a meaningful youth-driven program. The event began early in the evening with a focus on Yom HaZikaron, and then transitioned to a festive celebration after nightfall in honor of modern-day Israel’s 71st birthday.

The program was led and coordinated by Nechama Aryeh, who has been running the Israel programming at the YIO for the last ten years. “Each year, we try to change-up the program in order to bring in more people, and to keep it fresh and interesting for those who are returning participants,” said Nechama. “Our community is a close-knit group of individuals and families from a wide variety of backgrounds and across the entire age spectrum, and we want to appeal to every demographic when it comes to these two important days on our calendar.”

In that vein, Nechama approached Rabbi Jonathan Muskat, Rabbi of the YIO, nearly a year ago with her idea to focus the 2019 program on the youth of the community. “Our community has experienced significant growth over the past few years, and we now have well over 200 children who are regular participants in our youth program,” said Rabbi Muskat. “Nechama’s idea to not just involve the youth, but to make them the central point of the whole program, was novel and something that everyone would rally around.”

Children of all ages selected from a long list of opportunities that would showcase their talents: choir, poetry, drama, multimedia video creation, art, and more. They were divided into groups and were then assigned a parent mentor who periodically met with them for several months to help prepare their part of the program. Along the way, the children learned an enormous amount about Israel’s history and the meaning of Yom HaZikaron.

The standing-room-only crowd experienced an event that was emotional in nature, as the children, ranging in age from 5 to 17 years old, beautifully performed their segments. The audience learned about the details of the fall and rebirth of Gush Etzion through a gripping skit, and they were moved to tears by a slide show dedicated to Tzahal, which was accompanied by a children’s choir singing Yehoram Gaon’s rendition of the Mi SheBeirach L’Tzahal. There was also a multi-media presentation, an original poetry reading, and more. The program closed on a note of hope and inspiration as 20+ young children took the stage to sing Acheinu and HaTikvah, with musical accompaniment played by some older children.

Following the Yom HaZikaron commemoration, participants davened the t’filah chagigit and Maariv, and then moved to the ballroom for a gala buffet Israeli dinner of shawarma, falafel, and more. The hall was festively decorated with Israeli flags, balloons, posters, and table centerpieces of Israel-themed art, painted by the children of the Oceanside community. Everyone enjoyed the food and socializing immensely, and then broke into spontaneous singing and dancing to cap off the evening of celebration. It was a truly meaningful and memorable program that appropriately captured and conveyed the import of each day, Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut, for all participants. Happy 71st birthday, Israel – our Jewish homeland!