Drawing on tradition to celebrate Jewish life today

Drawing on tradition to celebrate Jewish life today

Gift of Life will join entertainers, vendors at Y Fair and Expo

Marc Hilton, center, chair of the Jewish Fair and Expo, and his committee show off the event T-shirt.
Marc Hilton, center, chair of the Jewish Fair and Expo, and his committee show off the event T-shirt.

The Jewish Fair & Expo at the Union Y, on Sunday, Nov. 21, isn’t a fund-raiser. Y program director Jani Jonas is very emphatic about that.

“It’s simply a day for the family to come out and enjoy themselves without having to spend a lot of money,” Jonas said.

You can buy food, or shop for all kinds of things from the array of vendors, or you can leave your wallet at home. There is no admission charge, and the music, talks, and entertainment are all free.

The theme this year is “Tradition: Remembering our past, looking to the future.”

The Living Legacy program of the Rabbinical College of America will put that into practice, showing children how to make their own olive oil to burn in a Hanukka menora, just as the Maccabees did in ancient times.

The theme will be heard in the numbers from the Hester Street Klezmer Band and in the songs performed by the choirs from the Jewish Educational Center, Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union, and Rutgers University’s a cappella group, Kol Halayla.

Raconteur Moshe Schreiber will explore “little known, interesting Jewish traditions.” Kean University history professor Dr. Dennis Klein will give a talk entitled “Keeping Tradition in the Kovno Ghetto.”

That presentation looks ahead in its own way — to a three-part series of lectures the Y will host in conjunction with Kean, “Remembering the Holocaust through Art, Music, and Film.”

It’s clear that the fair and expo will also celebrate the future — as well as the past and present — particular given the presence of the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation. Attendees will have an on-the-spot chance to register as a blood or marrow donor (see sidebar).

Gilad Falkenstein of West Orange said he also is looking to the future on behalf of another Gilad — at the event he will sell T-shirts to fund efforts to free Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped four years ago by Hamas.

Marc Hilton heads the committee organizing the event on behalf of the Y and B’nai B’rith TriState Region, his ninth year in the role. “If it seemed that they’d had enough, we’d stop,” Hilton said. “But it’s like with the other ethnic festivals — Greek or Italian or whatever — people come out to celebrate Jewish life in this community.”

His enthusiasm is infectious. The men’s club from Hilton’s congregation, Temple Beth El in Somerset, decided to hold their annual luncheon at the Y, to coincide with the fair. He mentioned the event at the 50th reunion of his eighth-grade class in Far Rockaway, Long Island, and classmates there said they would come too.

Organizers are excited about the vendors who will set up shop at the Y, offering wine tastings, handmade kosher chocolate, jewelry, hats, clothes, books, and perhaps T-shirts with custom-printed Hebrew slogans.

“The more the merrier,” Hilton declared.

read more: