Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Psalms 133:1) Memphis Friends of Israel plays host to annual Israel Festival in Audobon Park.
On June 6, Memphis’s Audobon Park played host to the city’s sixth annual Israel Festival, organised by the Memphis Friends of Israel. The festival’s move to a new location this year was accompanied by an expansion of planned events, doubling the size of the festival. Among the new features: a Jewish food tent, featuring local synagogues and kosher food vendors supplying a variety of traditional Ashkenazic, Sephardic and Israeli dishes. According to Memphis Friends of Israel president Scott Baum, “We want the public to know that there is more to Jewish food than matzo and gefilte fish.”
Memphis Friends of Israel is a non-denominational, non-political entity dedicated to educating the mid-southern population about the positive aspects of Israel, according to its website. Its membership includes synagogues, churches, interfaith groups, families and individuals. The annual Israel Festival is one of its popular events, and is centered around the 5k walk/run. Although the rest of the festival is free, the walk/run has a $20 advanced registration fee.
In addition to the new food tent, this year’s festival featured extended hours of operation, a 3-point competition to win Memphis Grizzlies basketball tickets, a falafel-eating contest, and a special musical tribute starring a variety of local talent and stars. Traditional activities included a Moon Walk, wall climbing, petting zoo and face-painting for children; and Ask the Rabbi, Ask the Israeli, Travel Information, Famous and Interesting Israelis and Place and Things educational-themed tents for adults. Plans were made to protect participants from rain after a wash-out two years earlier, but as it turned out, June 9th was a lovely day in Memphis.
Festival organiser Shep Fargotstein thanked the local Greek and Italian Festivals for inspiring the Israel event and for helping develop the original concept.