Despite strife in Mideast, MJCC celebrates unity

Belly dancers shimmied in red chiffon, young people crouched in a Bedouin tent and falafel juice ran down the wrists of Marin County Jews trying to recreate the sounds and smells and tastes of Jerusalem in honor of the city's trimillennium.

Coming on the heels of various Jerusalem 3000 events held throughout the Bay Area and around the world this year, last Sunday's outdoor birthday party was intended to remind local Jews that even in turbulent times, Jerusalem is still a reminder of Jewish unity.

In the grassy garden outside San Rafael's Marin Jewish Community Center, about 60 people linked crossed arms in a "Peace Chain," dancing wedding-style to the strains of a well-amplified acoustic band.

Present circumstances in the Middle East were not addressed by event organizers. Instead, they stressed the historic importance of the Jewish capital.

"Jerusalem has always been a symbol of peace, even through upheavals. Today is no different. It is at the heart of the dreams of the Jewish people," said event co-chair Shelly Porges of Greenbrae.

Dreaming about the city he will see for the first time next summer on a confirmation trip, 15-year-old Jeremy Lansing wore an Israeli army uniform Sunday and made crafts and music in the "Tzedakah Tent" run by the Marin Jewish Youth Contact (MAJYK). He plans to have a second bar mitzvah in the Holy Land "to be more Jewish, more in touch."

Calvin Zippin got in touch with some details about Jerusalem's history that were new to him despite a dozen visits to the Jewish state. The Marin resident attended a lecture on Jerusalem by William "Ze'ev" Brinner, U. C. Berkeley Near Eastern studies professor emeritus. But Zippin couldn't stay indoors for long, roaming out after the lecture to watch the festivities.

Zippin, also a volunteer for the event, said: "With the unease that exists in Israel today, it's extremely important to bring together the diverse elements of the Jewish community. That's what this [event] attempted to do."

While turnout was lower than the expected 800 to 1,000, co-chair Porges said she was impressed to see Marin Jews — including a bevy of teens — who wouldn't usually attend Jewish events. Other offerings at the event included a lecture by local film critic Jan Wahl, a mime performance, a scavenger hunt and even shopping. Works by Jewish artisans were available for perusal or purchase.

Sponsors of Marin's Jerusalem 3000 day were the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Consulate General of Israel, Marin JCC, MAJYK, Congregations Kol Shofar of Tiburon and Rodef Sholom of San Rafael, Brandeis Hillel Day School, Jewish Family and Children's Services and the S.F.-based Israel Center.