First Hebrew Fest Hits NYC, With Beer


Interested in a free Israeli bira?

In the first festival of its kind, the Israeli-American Council is partnering with the Steinhardt Foundation and the Council for Hebrew Language and Culture to host Hagigah Ivrit, a citywide celebration of the Hebrew language and Israeli culture. The festival, which will run from March 14-30, features everything from a Hebrew “Peter and the Wolf” performance to a best-selling Israeli author’s reading to a beer sing-along. Events will take place at a variety of locations across over the city.

“No politics involved, finally,” said Yehudit Feinstein, the council’s New York regional director. “The festival is about art, family, and learning. Hebrew is the DNA of Israeli culture, and we want to celebrate it. The goal is to get young people excited.”

One way to do that: beer. In one of the festival’s most anticipated events, Dor Chadash, IAC’s group for next-generation Israeli-Americans, will host Beer Ve’Nashir, an event modeled after the popular tradition on Israeli kibbutzim to gather around music and artisanal beer. The event, which will take place at a trendy nightclub in Chelsea, is hoping to attract 500 young adults.

“Anyone who wants to celebrate Israeli music and spirits is welcome,” said Neve Rabino, director of Dor Chadash. Rabino said the event is trying to strike a welcoming, yet avant-garde feel. “It’s a celebration of culture,” he said.

Every first beer will be on the house, said Rabino — the event is sponsored in part by Israel’s largest brewer, Tempo Beer Industries, known for its Goldstar product. “We’re expecting a big turnout,” he said.

For the younger age group, a 20-piece orchestral extravaganza called “Music Talks: Peter and the Wolf” will debut at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in Midtown on March 15, with Israeli actress Shira Averbuch narrating in Hebrew. Following the show, guests will get behind-the-scenes access, to meet the instruments up close at a “musical instrument petting zoo.”

Israeli-Americans and the Jewish community will also hold a Shabbat meal together during “Shishi Israeli” (Israeli Friday Night) at B’nai Jeshurun synagogue on the Upper West Side. The evening will include traditional Israeli food and folk music.

The festival coincides with global Good Deeds Day, a worldwide event first launched in Israel in 2007 that brings together 700,000 participants from 50 different countries seeking to help others in diverse ways. IAC will encourage participation by offering a card-making station for Passover, birthdays, Israeli soldiers and for the elderly at the Stephen Wise Free synagogue on Mar. 15.

“There needs to be excitement,” said Feinstein. “We have arts and crafts, music, Shabbat dinner, books — and if a free Israeli beer will do, make it on us.”