For an event that has grown from hosting hundreds to serving thousands, it is fitting that YWCA Dayton – an organization that first served hundreds and has now sheltered thousands – was chosen as a partner.
“Since its inception in 2011, the Jewish Cultural Festival at Temple Israel creates opportunities for all who wish to learn more about Jewish traditions, history, customs, and faith,” explained Courtney Cummings, music and program director at Temple Israel. “Over the last 10 years, thousands have turned out to enjoy music and stories, learn about rituals, Torah, and holidays, taste brisket, falafel and challah, play games, and learn that we have a lot in common with each other.”
Although the COVID-19 pandemic requires festival adaptations, it’s not slowing organizers down. A series of three drive-thru events – a Taste of the Jewish Cultural Festival – will take place in April, May, and June, each one focused on a specific holiday or aspect of Judaism. Each will include fresh-baked goods available for pre-order, educational pieces, children’s activities, a raffle, food trucks, giveaways, and more.
“We will proudly welcome people of all faiths to share a Jewish experience with our friends, members, rabbis, and staff,” Cummings said.
With its mission of eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all, YWCA Dayton was chosen as the April event’s charity beneficiary.
Explains Cummings: “The mission of YW aligns with Temple Israel’s values of social justice, tikkun olam (repair of the world), and cultivating and creating sacred relationships with all people. We are a congregation with an all-female bimah team, and realize the importance of leading by example to empower other women to do the same.” Temple Israel’s Senior Rabbi, Karen Bodney-Halasz, was named a 2019 YWCA Dayton Women of Influence honoree.
The April edition is slated for April 16 from 4-7 p.m. at Temple Israel (130 Riverside Dr.) and will highlight Purim, a holiday that celebrates how Queen Esther saved the Jews from persecution. “It was through her courage, bravery, and willingness to lose her own life that the Jewish people were saved,” Cummings said. “What better way to pay homage to Queen Esther than to support and empower women and girls in our community?”
The festival includes a donation drive component, and Temple Israel hopes to shower YW clients – especially mothers in its domestic violence shelters – with supplies and support. Additionally, they hope the event raises awareness.
“We hope to shed some light on the issues in our community, especially those exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope that the items donated will bring comfort, aid, security, and normalcy to those who have been displaced and to those who are suffering during this pandemic,” Cummings said. “Everyone should have access to basic necessities and no one should live in fear of violence. May our ‘April Showers’ help those in need and give them an extra boost to bloom to their full potential.”
To learn more and help give back, visit http://tidayton.org/festival.