As the last congregants filed into the sanctuary at Beth Sholom Congregation last week, Rabbi Nissan Antine gave a group of children a pop quiz.
“What is today?” he shouted.
“Israel’s birthday!” the kids yelled back.
“And which birthday?”
“Seventy!” the children responded, as a dispute broke out over which year the Jewish state must have been born in.
Bridging those 70 years, from 1948 to 2018, and keeping the fact of Israel’s existence relevant and urgent for the Modern Orthodox synagogue’s youngest generation was part of the goal of Beth Sholom’s Israeli Independence Day celebration, Antine said.
An Israeli dinner for 100 people followed a service of prayer and song — including by the congregation’s children’s choir. Then it was play time in a bouncy castle for the kids, and Israel trivia for adults. (Fun fact: Israel has appeared in the World Cup four times.)
Congregants Guilda and Charlie Moussazadeh have personal connections to Israel. The two knew each other while growing up in Tehran, Iran. Charlie left before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. After the revolution, Guilda fled to Israel, where she lived for about five years before relocating to New York, where she and Charlie married.
They later moved to Maryland and have been coming to Beth Sholom for 15 years. Guilda still has family living in Israel, so the two visit almost every year.
“Before the revolution, I was Persian Jewish,” Guilda said. “Afterwards, I was just Jewish. So I’ll always feel a deep connection to Israel.”