“My husband is from Israel, and when we moved here, we noticed there was nothing to celebrate Israel’s birthday. That’s what inspired us to start this with our synagogue,” says Goldie Weizman, the co-founder of the Café Israel event at Asheville’s Congregation Beth Israel.
From homemade falafel to fresh baklava, the synagogue will host its 11th annual celebration on Sunday, May 8 — which is an auspicious day for moms as well. “We always have a celebration … the Sunday before or after [Independence Day],” explains Weizman. “This year’s just happened to fall on Mother’s Day.”
Previously known as Celebration Israel, the event’s new name emphasizes a change in its overall design. Whereas in the previous decade it was held as an outdoor afternoon festival, this year’s gathering will take place inside the temple building beginning at 5 p.m. Co-founder and event chair Michael Weizman says the congregation wanted to create a more intimate feel to honor Israel’s 68th birthday. “We hope that this new format is a great success,” he says.
Open to all members of the community, families can enjoy an array of authentic Israeli foods. Shawarma, hummus and couscous will be among items featured on the menu and available for purchase a la carte. “It’s all homemade,” says Goldie. “Nothing is bought. The only things that are bought are the ingredients to make the fresh food.”
The desserts will be hand-prepared by Bruce B. Brown Catering. From malabi (sweet pudding) to watermelon with salty cheese cubes, the kosher treats will provide a sweet delight to cap off the evening’s meal, along with a cup of Turkish coffee.
In addition to food, Café Israel will host a variety of activities and events. Live folk music will be performed throughout the evening, and films concerning Israel’s independence will also be on view in the synagogue’s sanctuary.
Children can participate in an archaeological dig activity that offers take-home treasures, plus balloon twisting from Twister Theatre and a number of other craft activities and games. According to volunteer Sally Gooze, there is a “fancy little bounce house” in the works as well.
While the kids play, adults can partake in a tasting of Israeli wines or enjoy a beer from Hi-Wire Brewing. A silent auction will include donations from local Asheville businesses, artists and doctors. A live auction at 7 p.m. will include a Moog Sub Phatty synthesizer, a Jonas Gerard acrylic abstract floral painting and a Jewish Community Center summer pool pass, among other items and offerings.
“We just hope people will have a good time,” says Goldie. “Enjoy the food, enjoy the culture [and] learn a little bit about Israel.”