Every year, the Twin Cities Jewish community organizes a Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration. But for this year’s 75th birthday of Israel, organizers are going bigger than ever before: Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America will be transformed into Israel for a few hours on April 30 – at least as close to Israel as you can get without boarding a couple of flights.
“We’ve renamed the rides in Hebrew, and the photo booth rather than just being a traditional photo booth will have a backdrop of Israel,” said Steve Mintz the Minnesota JCC’s director of programing. “And there will be cardboard standups of famous Israelis, so you can you can take your picture with Gal Gadot. The intention is a festive celebration of the amazing existence of a modern Israeli state for 75 years.”
The event runs from 5-8 p.m. The park will close to regular revelers at 4:30 p.m. so the setup can take place, and volunteers are needed to assist with that. Registration is required and can be done online. All registered participants will enter the park from the west entrance; Mall of America’s west ramp is between Nordstrom and Macy’s.
The event is sponsored by the Minnesota JCC, Minneapolis Jewish Federation, St. Paul Jewish Federation, and sponsored in part by the Miriam Kaitz Israel Program Fund, a designated fund of the Minnesota Jewish Community Foundation.
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) are sponsoring and supporting security.
“There will be a security presence, both uniformed and non-uniformed,” said Mintz. “The JCRC, the JCC and Mall of America have been meeting for months to ensure that this will be a safe and fun event.”
“The community partners like synagogues and other organizations will be hosting various events from Israeli flag cornhole to characitures and face-paining,” Mintz said. “There will be yummy Israeli snacks. It’s gonna be a party.”
Confirmed entertainment includes the Heilicher Minneapolis Jewish Day School choir, Ha’Zamir, Shir Harmony, the dance troupe Synopsis from Tiberius, Israel, and Jewbalaya, the Twin Cities’ New Orleans-style Klezmer band.
To increase the ambiance, the usual music that is piped into the park will be turned off in favor of Israeli music encompassing the last 75 years.
“It’s also a great chance for people to just socialize and schmooze with your friend that you haven’t seen in forever, or the friend you see every day,” he said. “The intention here is to be as apolitical as possible. There are other opportunities where we can and should be talking about everything from democracy and Israel, to Israeli history, to Arab-Israeli relations. All of that stuff is important.”
“But,” Mintz said, “you have a chance — we have a chance to be together as a community and enjoy each other’s company while celebrating.