Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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NU Hillel, Wildcats for Israel host Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration in honor of Israel’s independence day

Samantha Powers/The Daily Northwestern
Students could compete to guess the number of cherry tomatoes in a jar. Some say the fruit is an Israeli invention.

Northwestern Hillel and Wildcats for Israel hosted their annual Yom Ha’atzmaut Israel Fest on Tuesday. The event featured activities like Israeli pop culture trivia and Israeli games, including Rummikub, backgammon and gaga ball.

Yom Ha’atzmaut commemorates Israel’s declaration of independence on May 14, 1948. Weinberg senior Lily Cohen helped organize the event as part of the NU Israel Peace and Reflection Week programming.

“Israel week has been a really special opportunity for a lot of the Jewish community to come together and to celebrate and to just be really proud,” Cohen said. “We’ve had some more somber events, like Yom HaZikaron… but then to be able to celebrate Jewish pride, Israeli life, I think it’s just really nice that we have this opportunity.”

The event was originally slated to happen on the lawn outside Foster-Walker Complex, but organizers moved it inside the Hillel building due to inclement weather. An arch of blue and white balloons greeted attendees at the door.

Communication senior Ani Feinberg said she was bummed that the event was moved inside because she was hoping it would be an opportunity for more Jewish visibility on campus.

She said NU Chabad’s giant loaf of Challah bread at SpoonFest on Friday was a “perfect example” of positive Jewish visibility on campus.

“(It was) not necessarily divisive or aggressive political stances, but more helping people to understand and take part in Jewish culture and what we are all about here,” she said.

Jami Garfinkel, the engagement associate at NU Hillel, said she hopes the event will inspire new people to get involved with Hillel.

She added that she wants Jewish students to feel safe and comfortable celebrating their culture through the Israel Week programming.

“I think given the current climate on campus, a lot of students who are Jewish and maybe identify with Israel or have a connection there have felt kind of isolated,” Garfinkel said. “I think that it’s really important for students this year to feel like they have a space.”

Rivka Schaffel, a second-year counseling graduate student, said she was thankful to the event’s organizers for providing a safe place to belong.

Schaffel said she was raised Orthodox Jewish and spent her whole life learning about Israel and its significance in Jewish culture. But, she said living in Israel for a year after high school opened her eyes to what she was missing living in the U.S.

“Spirituality, connection, family (and) God’s presence,” Schaffel said. “You can get all of that wherever you are, (but) when you’re in Israel, it’s there. It’s more accessible. Everyone’s with you in that.”

In contrast, she said, the U.S. is a more secular, individualized country, but in Israel, she feels like she is automatically a part of a community.

This year, Schaffel said celebrating Israel’s Independence Day touches a “raw nerve,” adding that she feels more connected to her community on the holiday than she has in any years past.

“Today, when I think about celebrating, I’m celebrating not only the existence of us having a state but the existence of us as a nation for thousands and thousands of years,” she said. “No matter how many powerful empires and countries and rulers have attempted to just get rid of us, we’re still here and we’re still strong and we’re still loving.”

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