Commemoration to Celebration

By Ken Garfield

Charlotte’s Jewish community will come together in late April to honor, on Yom Ha-Zikaron, those who gave their lives to establish and defend the State of Israel. We then commemorate what their courage brought to bear by celebrating Israel’s 75th anniversary on Yom Ha’atzmaut.

As Jews living outside of Israel, we should all engage with Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut to celebrate our collective connection to Israel, the national home of our people.

 Tair Guidice, chief impact officer for the Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte, grew up in the Israeli town of Arad before moving to the United States when she was 24. Who better than Tair to capture the meaning of Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut:
“These days should not be separated or detached from one another. They are one continuous Jewish event. Some of us, including myself, have no memories of a time in which Israel did not exist. It’s only natural that we take Israel as a given. It’s part of our normalcy. But Yom HaZikaron reminds us that this normalcy is nothing short of a miracle, that Israel’s normalcy is an act of defiance and a feat of heroism.”

On Yom HaZikaron, Israelis pause to remember their loved ones and reflect on the cost of freedom. The country comes to a standstill as sirens blare throughout the nation, signaling a moment of silence for the fallen. Israelis gather at cemeteries and memorial sites to pay their respects, while others attend ceremonies and listen to the stories of those who have lost family members in wars and terrorist attacks.

In Charlotte, our community observes Yom HaZikaron with a commemoration that includes special readings and prayers by local clergy and the participation of the Charlotte Jewish Day School choir. This year’s commemoration will be held in the Sam Lerner Center for Cultural Arts on Monday, April 24 at
6 p.m. and is open to all.

As the sun sets on Yom Ha-Zikaron, the mood shifts as the Jewish community celebrates Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. The transition from mourning to rejoicing symbolizes the Jewish people’s resilience. This joyous occasion marks the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, following centuries of persecution and diaspora.

Yom Ha’atzmaut is a time for Israelis to celebrate their independence and the tenacity of their nation. Israelis take to the streets in colorful parades, wave flags, and sing and dance in public squares. Families and friends gather for barbecues and picnics, enjoying traditional foods such as falafel and hummus.
Each year, our Charlotte Jewish community gathers for celebration with food, music, and activities for all ages. This year, we welcome musician Aveva Dese to perform. Aveva is part of the first generation of Ethiopian Jews born and raised in Israel. Aveva’s parents were among thousands of refugees living in Sudanese refugee camps in the early 1980s, escaping the civil war in Ethiopia. In a joint effort between the governments of Israel and the United States, dubbed “Operation Moses,” the Sudanese government allowed them to leave. Many resettled in Israel. Aveva weaves her story into her music, about society, freedom, and love. Her style, “Afro-Soul,” offers a mix of texts in English and Amharic (Ethiopian Semitic language) and traditional Ethiopian sounds.

We hope you will join us on April 26 at 5 p.m. at the Polikoff Athletic Pavillion and LJCC soccer fields as we celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut with live music, lawn games, authentic Israeli barbeque.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte is pleased to organize these events on behalf of the community. For more information about either the Yom HaZikaron or Yom Ha’atzmaut events, visit

 A day of silence, then a day to sing. President Kennedy’s words from 1962 lift up both: “Israel was not created in order to disappear — Israel will endure and flourish. It is the child of hope and the home of the brave. It can neither be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success. It carries the shield of democracy and it honors the sword of freedom.”

Ken Garfield, former religion editor of The Charlotte Observer, is a freelance writer/editor focusing on charitable causes.


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