How Jews Across North America Will Mark the 50th Anniversary of the Six-Day War

From rallies to parties, here's a list of events taking place in the run-up to the anniversary in June

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People march along Fifth Ave. during the Celebrate Israel Parade, May 31, 2015, in New York.
People march along Fifth Ave. during the Celebrate Israel Parade, May 31, 2015, in New York.Credit: AP
Debra Nussbaum Cohen
Debra Nussbaum Cohen
New York

NEW YORK – As the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War approaches, Jewish communities around North America are marking the occasion with a range of activities. These include demonstrations and introspective study gatherings focusing on the occupation, and parties and parades celebrating Israel’s victory and Jerusalem’s reunification in June 1967.

Here is a partial list...

May 7: An enormous Celebrate Israel festival took place in Los Angeles on Saturday, sponsored by the Israeli American Council and attracting some 15,000 people.

Ongoing until week of Six-Day War anniversary: “Orientation training” by IfNotNow group in Los Angeles, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington and San Francisco. The grassroots organization, which was founded by millennials during the Gaza War in 2014, is also rolling out a digital campaign at the 50 Days 50 Years website. It will include dozens of video testimonies from young adults talking about why they oppose the occupation, according to INN organizer Yonah Lieberman.

During the week of June 5 (the Six-Day War anniversary), “We will have public demonstrations all across the country that will force the American Jewish community to reckon with what it means to have supported the occupation for the past 50 years,” Lieberman said.

The goal is to “directly challenge the Jewish community in an unprecedented way,” he explained. “In the streets, we will be showing that this will be the final year that our generation will support the occupation. For us, the most important threat to the future of the American Jewish community isn’t assimilation, isn’t intermarriage, isn’t BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel], but our community’s support for the occupation for the last 50 years.”

May 17-24: The Shalom Hartman Institute of North America is running a day-long program called “Six Days That Shaped 50 Years,” in four locations around the continent: Toronto, Manhattan, San Francisco/Palo Alto and Los Angeles. Speakers include Hartman faculty from Jerusalem and New York, and leaders from the Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities in each city. In mid-June, the Hartman Institute will publish a new curriculum that will take Jewish study groups through major milestones in modern Jewish history. Its goal is to help people examine “how we understand the past influences how we think about the future,” said SHI-NA President Yehuda Kurtzer.

May 24: Jerusalem Day is the Israeli anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification under Jewish sovereignty at the end of the Six-Day War. At Conservative synagogue Congregation Anshei Israel in Tucson, Arizona, there will be an evening program called “A Dream That Has Come True: 50 Years as One.”

Early June: Congregation Valley Beth Shalom, a Conservative synagogue in Encino, California, will study the impact of the Six-Day War on American Jewry’s perception of itself, using a curriculum called “The June 1967 War: How It Changed Jewish, Israeli and Middle Eastern History.”

“We’re cerebral as hell so we won’t celebrate this, we’ll ask hard questions,” says Rabbi Edward Feinstein. “The Six-Day War woke us up to our own identity in many ways, to the reality of the Holocaust. It woke the American Jewish community up to its own vulnerability, maybe because we weren’t so vulnerable anymore,” as Israel’s victory proved. As a result, “something changed in us – and that’s a fascinating thing to examine.”

June 4: New York Celebrates Israel Day. It starts with the Celebrate Israel Parade down Fifth Avenue, with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat as the honorary parade marshal. Then the festivities move to dance club Terminal 5 for the Celebrate Israel Festival, sponsored by the Israeli American Council-New York.

June 6: During the Zionist Organization of America Pro-Israel Capitol Hill Mission, participants will lobby their members of Congress and participate in a private luncheon with senators and House members. The timing of the lobby day, says ZOA President Morton Klein, “is intentional.”

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