The Celebrate Israel Festival on May 31 at Pier 94, slated to be the largest gathering to date of Israeli-Americans in New York, a wide array of notable Israelis have confirmed their participation, from some of the country’s greatest basketball stars to representatives of several of its most successful start-ups.
Presiding over the basketball court at Pier 94 will be the six-time European and 51-time Israeli league champions, Maccabi Tel Aviv, represented by their legendary players Derrick Sharp, the 15-year Maccabi Tel Aviv veteran and former member of Israel’s national basketball team, and David Blu, considered one of the best Jewish players of all time, with two Euroleague and five Israeli league championships under his belt. Sharp and Blu will host a fast-paced clinic, as well as a two-on-two tournament and a slam-dunk contest for festival-goers of all ages.
Keeping with the athletic theme, the festival’s organizer, the Israeli-American Council (IAC), has engaged Israeli TV star and current sports columnist for the Israeli newspaper Calcalist, Becky Griffin will serve as the event’s host. The daughter of legendary Israeli and Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball star Bob Griffin, Becky started her career as a reporter for Israel’s Sports Channel before moving to London to work as a VJ at MTV Europe.
In partnership with the Consulate General of Israel in New York, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY), and the UJA Federation of New York, the Festival will take place on May 31 at Pier 94 from 2:00 p.m to 7:00 p.m immediately following the annual Celebrate Israel Parade, as an anchor event in a marathon day of events celebrating Israeli culture.
“I am thrilled to be returning once again as the Celebrate Israel Parade correspondent, and am especially excited this year to serve as the first-ever Celebrate Israel Festival Master of Ceremonies,” said Griffin. “I’m a proud Israeli-American, and I can’t wait for the rest of New York to experience the vibrant and warm Israeli culture that I’ve always known and loved.”
Before the Festival’s headliners, Israeli superstar Rita and Rinat Gabay, Israel’s most beloved children’s entertainer, take the stage, Ambassador Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York, will open the official ceremony. In addition, on the Blue Note sponsored stage, some of Israel’s finest jazz musicians will be performing, including singer-songwriter Mika Hary and guitarists Nadav Remez, Yotam Silberstein, and Dida Pelled
Those craving more cerebral pleasures will discover them in the Festival’s Tech Pavilion, where a number of technology innovators will showcase their work. Participating in the pavilion are a host of up-and-coming start-ups like Farmigo, a technology company that connects communities to local produce, as well as more established enterprises like Gett, a leader in the on-demand black car industry.
Reflecting the Festival’s diversity and commitment to Israel’s multicultural nature, the Festival’s food court will feature everything from the gourmet breaded chicken cutlets of the Schnitzel Truck to the Mediterranean delicacies of the Shakshuka Truck, with sushi from Sushi Tokyo and frozen yogurt from 16 Handles thrown in for good measure. In addition Tabor and Montefiore wineries, leaders in Israel’s respected wine industry, will be offering tastings of their wines.
“As Israelis living in New York, we know very well just how rich and layered Israeli culture truly is,” said Yehudit Feinstein-Mentesh, the IAC’s New York Regional Director. “For one magical afternoon, we’re thrilled to bring all that richness to New York, and paint the Big Apple blue-and-white for a day.”
The Festival will also include dozens of activities geared towards anyone from young professionals to families, including a petting zoo, a graffiti wall, and a Krav Maga martial arts academy; a singles bar; and plenty of opportunities to experience Israeli food, arts, sports, technology, and culture. Tickets can be purchased online for $5 for children and $10 for adults here.