To Life and youth

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Palo Alto’s California Avenue was transformed Sunday, Sept. 9, by the eighth annual arts and cultural To Life! Jewish Street Festival. Thousands turned out, strolling up and down the street admiring artwork, noshing on falafel or just schmoozing.

Presented by the Albert L. Schultz Jewish Community Center, the festival is the Peninsula’s biggest Jewish-themed public event.

The celebration had something for everyone, and quite a lot for kids and teenagers. Their five favorite things?

1. Food

Falafel, garlic fries, knishes, hummus, ice cream sandwiches, frozen lemonades, kosher chicken kabobs fresh from the grill. A Mardi Gras for the nose and tongue.

But for Ariela and Naomi Zweiback of Los Altos, none of these qualified for best food of the day.

The sisters, ages 5 and 4, were unanimous in their opinion: Sno Cones. Their purple-stained lips proved their allegiance to the icy snack. They spooned the treat from a Styrofoam cup into their mouths while standing near their mom’s booth, Ani Israeli Children’s Wear. Before heading to the kids’ arts and crafts area, they stuck out their tongues, discussing how grape and cherry affect the color of one’s mouth.

2. Art

Gabi Kirk and Max Shulaker sat at a table covered with markers, stickers, watercolors, tissue and construction paper, glue and glitter. The teens — both members of BBYO — spent the day volunteering at a craft booth.

“We remember these things when we were kids, so we wanted to sponsor a table and give back,” said Kirk, a 16-year-old student at Leland High School in San Jose.

Kirk wore a BBYO T-shirt modeled after the Israel Defense Forces logo. She tucked her waist-long hair behind her ears as she explained that anyone who participates in their table receives a certificate of achievement (printed in color, she proudly pointed out).

As Hannah Fox, a 10-year-old student at Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School, finished her painting — a Star of David in watercolors — Kirk handed her a certificate.

“This and Israel in the Gardens are really important events. I love Israel in the Gardens,” Kirk said. “But this has a different atmosphere. It feels more communal.”

3. Music

To Life! featured numerous local musicians, drawing teens (and, OK, plenty of adults) to the main stage.

Oseh Shalom and Adon Olam were remixed by Oakland’s Dr. J and the OJG’s (Original Jewish Gangsters), who blended traditional prayers with hip hop. The audience seemed to move in synchronicity to the funky beats. Considering that the musicians (Jonathan Gutstadt and Elana Jagoda, the cantor at Peninsula Temple Beth El) sold out of their “Hip Hop Shabbat” CDs, people liked what they heard.

“We’ve got a new album coming out, so you can pray for the rest of the week and not just on Shabbat,” Gutstadt joked. “Because, you know, there are six more days of the week.”

4. Learning

Yavneh Day School sponsored a Mitzvah Bee, quizzing students on Jewish trivia and traditions.

Natasha Frumkin, 9, of San Jose, got only one answer wrong (she wasn’t sure if Ruth was a Superhero or Super Jew). She was a bit surprised, considering that Judaica is her favorite subject in school, she said.

“I like learning about Jewish history,” she said, her blue eyes twinkling. She wore a denim dress with pink rhinestone buttons that matched her Mary Janes.

For participating in the Mitzvah Bee, she won a blue bouncy ball. And she got a mini Torah earlier in the day.

5. Hanging out

Yael Bublil, 13, and Rachel Isho-Shalom, 14, students at South Peninsula Hebrew Day School and Homestead High School, respectively, clad in long skirts and T-shirts, stood in a circle with a few other friends. The group stood near the food booths before beginning “food hunting” with their friends.

“It’s so nice to see people here,” said Esty Starr-Glass, 14, a student at Kehillah Jewish High School.

“It’s good to just hang out with friends,” said Harel Kopelman, 14, of Sunnyvale.

Unfortunately for him, he began a junk-food-free diet one day earlier, limiting his participation in the food hunt.

But as he laughed and talked with his friends, it appeared that his hang-out time wasn’t inhibited in any way.

Stacey Palevsky

Stacey Palevsky is a former J. staff writer.