Merrick, Bellmore celebrates 75 years of Israeli independence


For the 75th anniversary of Israel’s independence — celebrated on the holiday Yom Ha’atzmaut — the Merrick-Bellmore Jewish Community Council organized a joyous gathering that united the hamlets’ several synagogues for a celebration of love and hope for Israel and the Jewish people.

Some type of celebration for Yom Ha’atzmaut organized by the MBJCC has taken place every year, since 2017, though celebrations of the holiday in Merrick-Bellmore date back much longer than that. Yom Ha’atzmaut took place last week on April 26.

Ameer Benno, president of the MBJCC, said except for a two-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Jewish community of Merrick and Bellmore, and surrounding towns like Freeport and Wantagh, has been able to attend the event and celebrate Israel’s independence.

The founding principle of the MBJCC was to promote a strong Jewish identity among all members of the Merrick-Bellmore Jewish community, regardless of their level of observance — and that’s exactly what the Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration does.

Participating synagogues this year included Congregation Beth Ohr, Congregation Ohav Sholom, Temple Beth Am, Young Israel of Merrick, and the Merrick Jewish Centre, which served as the host of this year’s celebration.

At the MJC, last week’s events kicked off with performances by Hebrew school students from all five synagogues, followed by a dinner of traditional Israeli cuisine in the centre’s social hall. Throughout the room, which was packed with congregants, there were several activities for children to participate in, including a silent disco and a cupcake making station.

Kids were also able to paint a Kiddush cup — an integral aspect of Shabbat and holiday meals — and write their names on a “Western Wall.” In Israel, the Western Wall is considered one of the holiest sites in Judaism and a place of pilgrimage and prayer, as it one of the last remaining walls of the Temple Mount.

And aside from performances by Hebrew school students, later in the evening, the cantors from the MJC, Congregation Beth Ohr, and Temple Beth Am, including Benjamin Warschawski, Joshua Diamond and Daniel Rosenfeld, sang a beautiful rendition of the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikvah,” captivating the large crowd that was still assembled in the social hall.

“We support Israel, and it is Israel’s 75th, so it’s a very special birthday,” Benno said. “It’s really important for the Jewish community to come together, and to be one, especially in today’s day and age, when there’s a lot of people who do things that are damaging to Jewish community. We’re here to help build it up, and support it, and show our support for Israel.”

“I personally love this event the most out of all the holidays and celebrations that we have,” Benno’s wife and co-organizer, Gayle added. “It doesn’t matter what shul you’re a member of — we just all are here as Jewish people, celebrating together.”