Israel in Our Hearts to be held at S.F. Zoo

The S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation has announced a few more details about a new community celebration. “Israel in Our Hearts” will take place May 3 at the Playfield Lawn, a private space inside the San Francisco Zoo.

Specifics for the event have not yet been set, but it will include live music, a complimentary lunch and activities for children. It also aims to highlight the ties between Israel and the Bay Area, especially the work the federation does in Israel.

Unlike Israel in the Gardens, a free all-day event at Yerba Buena Gardens that typically drew thousands before being discontinued after 2013, Israel in Our Hearts will require an admission fee and will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in a space that has a capacity for 2,000 people, according to the zoo’s website. Admission includes entry to the zoo itself.

So why the zoo? Jim Offel, the federation’s interim CEO, said the location suits the event’s focus on families and children.

“We’re attempting to narrow the focus and be more purposeful about what we’re trying to accomplish,” he said. “We wanted a place outdoors that could facilitate the numbers we hope to have, [and which is] family friendly and kid friendly.”

Offel acknowledged that many in the community are lamenting the apparent demise of Israel in the Gardens, but the new event has a lot to offer, he stressed.

“I get that change is hard,” he said, “but paralysis is not healthy. It’s all about evolving as an organization, and asking questions about how we can have the most impact and best fulfill the mission of our organization.”

He likes how the new event — on a well-maintained lawn surrounded by trees — will showcase the federation’s work in Israel.

“One thing I hear from donors and lay leaders is that our work in Israel is a best-kept secret,” Offel said. “One thing we want to do is explore elements that will create that bridge, create greater awareness of the important and innovative work we do in Israel, both in grant-making and in our programs.” — dan pine

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.