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‘celebration 33’draws Thousands

Some 4,500 people gathered last night in Radio City Music Hall to participate in “Celebration 33″ which marked Israel’s 33rd anniversary. The participants paid $100 or $500 for the night’s fete. A $500 ticket included champagne and canapes. All viewed the world premier of “The Chosen,” the motion picture based on Chaim Potok’s novel about Hasidic Jews and the conflict between Orthodox Judaism and Western secular values. One of the ground rules for invited members of the press was that the film, which begins its commercial run in the fall, could not be reviewed at this time.

The celebration here was one of many taking place around the world. Comedian Alan King, who welcomed the people, regaled the audience when he said that the showing of “The Chosen” was taking place in some 1000 theaters in some 21 countries, including the United States where in El Paso, Texas “twelve Jews are watching it right now as crosses are being burned on their lawns.”

HOPES FOR A WAVE OF IDENTIFICATION

Meshulam Riklis, the Israeli-born chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the Rapid-American Corporation, helped fund the film which has produced the husband and wife team of Ely and Edie Landau. Riklis conceived the idea of “Celebration 33″ and his corporation provided the expenses for the worldwide program. The proceeds from the sale of tickets were divided among Jewish organizations which are involved in some way with education in Israel and the institutions and programs they sponsor.

Riklis, who was assisted in the work on “Celebration 33″ by his long-time associate, Haim Bernstein, a Jerusalem-born sabra, explained at a meeting here earlier this year that in Hebrew the number “33” is comprised of the letters “gimel” and “lamed.” This is also the spelling for the word “gal” (wave). “Gal” is another name for “Celebration 33″ which, Riklis said, should result in a “wave of identification with the State of Israel and the Jewish people.”

LOW-KEYED CELEBRATION

The scene here last night was relatively low-keyed. Except for the fact that the massive, art deco theater was adorned with Israeli flags, and two organists played a medley of Israeli tunes, and a 35-minute film was shown featuring screen and television personalities telling jokes about Israel and Jews and reciting in verse and song the history of the Jewish people and the Jewish State, the audience itself took the celebration in stride.

There was a flurry of excitement and applause when King called attention to the presence in the audience of actress Molly Picon, Consul General of Israel in New York Paul Kedar and former Israeli Defense Minister Ezer Weizman, Riklis and Bernstein.

Hatikvah was played three times–once by organists as part of the medley, another time in the 35-minute film, and before the showing of the short film. During the last rendition the audience stood up but only a few people managed to exercise their vocal chords in the singing of Israel’s national anthem.

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