Israel celebration holds treasured memories for local leader

It’s Israel in the Gardens at the ballpark, 2004. I’m sitting there watching all the schools march with their signs and listening to announcements about this being the biggest Israel event in Northern California, and I wonder, Where is Sacramento? I decide that the following year, regardless of where I am, I’ll bring Sacramento to Israel in the Gardens.

That same fall, I became executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Sacramento Region. Making good on my promise, one of the first things I did was contact Alex Joffe, 2005 chair of Israel in the Gardens, to make sure Sacramento would be a part of this special event. It has been a presence ever since.

At the time I did not know that six years later, in October 2010, I would become director of the Israel Center, a department of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund. The center was established 15 years ago to strengthen the bridge between the Bay Area and Israel through a variety of programs and services — including, of course, Israel in the Gardens.

Israel in the Gardens has been a treasured event on my calendar for many years. When I was in Sacramento, I had a trusted team to help run the booth, since my six children took turns being active, excited and happy participants at the event. One of my sons, then a Shalom School student, played drums with Bay Area schools in 2006, and my two older sons joined me onstage in 2005 and 2010 for the fashion show featuring Israeli designers.

This year the June 5 celebration will include entertainers and musicians on the main stage, from school performances to the Tzofim (Israel Scouts) Friendship Caravan to local Israeli artists and bands. Join our flash mob; come browse Hebrew books, jewelry, delicious food and more; check out activities for children and teens; and visit the Fed Café, an outdoor coffee shop, Tel Aviv–style. Don’t forget to enter your name in our El Al ticket drawing for a free trip to Israel.

Israel in the Gardens, free and open to all, is presented by the JCF and produced by the Israel Center’s staff and leaders. Joining with us are numerous organizations as well as enthusiastic private sponsors, all committed to making this a great and lasting experience for everyone.

I am honored to welcome you to this year’s magnificent event!

Michal Kohane
is director of the Israel Center, part of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation.