a woman stands with an honest-to-God camel in the sunshine
A past year's Yom HaAtzamaut celebration at the Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael (Photo/File)

Get your blue-and-white on for celebrations across the Bay

At age 69, Israel is the same age as a certain generation’s favorite rock stars — so why not party like one on the Jewish state’s birthday? From falafel bars to puppet shows, kid-friendly picnics to decadent dance nights, there is no shortage of opportunities around the Bay Area to get your blue-and-white on for Yom HaAtzmaut. The holiday falls on Tuesday, May 2, but celebrations run from April 30 to May 7.


When it comes to family celebrations, options abound.

For the really young ones, storytellers Koren Zuckerman and Dikla Leon will lead a Hebrew-language celebration for preschoolers and their families. Israeli food and carnival games will be available as well. Sunday, April 30 at Jewish Community Library, 1835 Ellis St., S.F. 11 a.m. Free. jewishcommunitylibrary.org

If you’re interested in getting a bit of sun, Camp Newman will host a Yom HaAtzmaut Family Fun Day featuring nature walks, arts and crafts, readings from Israel-themed kids’ books and tours of the camp and its on-site farm, Operation Kibbutz Yarok. The event is free with RSVP, but $5 gets you access to a kosher barbecue. No word on what kind of goodies will be on the grill, though Hebrew National hot dogs would certainly be appropriate. Sunday, April 30 at URJ Camp Newman, 4088 Porter Creek Road, Santa Rosa. 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Free with RSVP; $5 for kosher BBQ. campnewman.org/event/openhouse


Area JCCs are also gearing up with celebrations for all ages.

The Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto routinely puts on the biggest bash in the Bay Area, and this year should be no different. They’ve organized a beach-themed party, complete with a fashion show, arts and crafts workshops, and performances by Israeli American rock band Trufat Savta and the South Peninsula Hebrew Day School Singers. Though the event is free, coupons for various kids’ activities — including face painting, rock climbing and a performance of the “Mitz Petel” puppet show — can be purchased online, $10 for 11 events, or $1 at the door. Tuesday, May 2 at Oshman Family JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto. 3:30 to 7 p.m. Free. paloaltojcc.org

Osher Marin JCC’s take on Yom HaAtzmaut this year is a bit unconventional — an artsy street fair with Israeli folk dancing and two workshops with Los Angeles-based graphic designer Hillel Smith. Sunday, April 30 at Osher Marin JCC, 200 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael. 1 to 5 p.m. $10-$15. marinjcc.org

The Peninsula JCC celebration features two performances of the puppet show “Mitz Petel,” based on Haya Shenhav’s classic children’s book about the mysterious inhabitant of a house in the woods. The first performance at 1:30 p.m. is in Hebrew, followed by a 2:45 p.m. show in English. Israeli food is on the menu. Tuesday, May 2 at Peninsula JCC, 800 Foster City Blvd., Foster City. 1 to 3:30 p.m. Free. pjcc.org

Meanwhile, the Addison-Penzak JCC offers dancing and a kosher barbecue plus a wealth of fun stuff for kids, including a scavenger hunt and that holy grail of prepubescent party activities, a bounce house. Friday, May 5 at Addison-Penzak JCC, 14855 Oka Road, Los Gatos. 3 to 6:30 p.m. Free. apjcc.org


Congregations across the Bay Area are celebrating as well.

San Francisco’s “official” Jewish community celebration will take place at Congregation Emanu-El, boasting a concert by the Maccabeats. RSVP is required; the event is full, but a waitlist is available Monday, May 1 at Emanu-El, 2 Lake St., S.F. 6 p.m. Free. Tinyurl.com/zxp5klm.

Congregation Netivot Shalom will celebrate with a falafel bar by Berkeley caterer Eli’s Gourmet Cooking, soundtracked by the Lama Lo Trio. Tuesday, May 2 at Netivot Shalom, 1316 University Ave., Berkeley. 5 p.m. $10-$50. Kids free with RSVP. netivotshalom.org

In the North Bay, Congregation Shomrei Torah will host a small Israeli dinner accompanied by dancing and preceded by a Shabbat service. Friday, May 5 at Shomrei Torah, 2600 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa. 6:15 p.m. Free with RSVP. (707) 578-5519.

Also in the North Bay, the Sonoma County Israel Tribute Variety Show features local singers Achi Ben Shalom and Noa Levy, plus the Sonoma County Israel Dance Troupe. The main event takes place at 3 p.m. but will be preceded at 1 p.m. by a remembrance of Israel’s fallen soldiers, led by Sonoma’s Congregation Shir Shalom. Sunday, May 7 at Congregation Beth Ami, 4676 Mayette Ave., Santa Rosa. 1 to 5 p.m. Free. jccsoco.org


Strictly for grown-ups, Moishe House Dolores is co-hosting ISRAELIfest 69, a 21-and-over party with an open bar and kosher food from Ronush Catering. The real draw here, though, is the after-party starting at 11 p.m Moishe is mum on where it’s happening (it’s more fun that way!), but it’s apparently “close,” so don’t worry about spending your Israel Independence Day on a strange side of town. Early-bird tickets are sold out, but tickets are still available online and at the door. Friday, May 5 at JCCSF, 3200 California St., S.F. 7:30 p.m. $20-$30. RSVP by May 2. israelifest_69.eventbrite.com

In the South Bay, Moishe House Palo Alto is organizing an outdoor street fair-style celebration. There’s no after-party — it ends at 9 so you can get up bright and early Monday morning — but there’ll be plenty of food, drinks and dancing. The Facebook event page promises the DJ will spin plenty of Dudu Aharon; if you know who that is, you’ll fit right in. Sunday, May 7 at Hillel of Stanford, 6 to 9 p.m. Free with RSVP. tinyurl.com/hillel-fair


Yom HaAtzmaut isn’t all about fun and falafel. It’s about the Jewish homeland. Peninsula Temple Sholom looks “Beyond Politics” with an open discussion of Israel’s contributions to entertainment, science, art and cuisine. Monday, May 1 at Peninsula Temple Sholom, 1655 Sebastian Drive, Burlingame. 6 p.m. Free. sholom.org

Tackling more controversial questions, San Francisco Hillel will host an open-tent conversation about the concept of “home,” especially as it pertains to Israel, on the San Francisco State University lawn. If this sounds weighty, not to worry: Participants will leave for a party at the Hillel house right after. Tuesday, May 2 on SFSU Lawn, 1600 Holloway Ave., S.F. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Free. jewishfed.org/news/events/exploration-israel-home

If you’re sick of stuffing yourself with falafel and just want to do something good for the community, get your hands dirty at Gan Israel’s Garden Project, helping to build an entryway to the preschool’s schoolyard. Sunday, May 7 at Gan Israel Preschool, 1055 Las Ovejas Ave., San Rafael. 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Free. Contact morahgittel@yahoo.com.

Daniel Bromfield
Daniel Bromfield

Daniel Bromfield is Editorial Assistant at J. His writing on music has appeared in The Bay Guardian, San Francisco Magazine, Spectrum Culture, Pretty Much Amazing and Emerald Media. He can be reached at daniel@jweekly.com.