JDS celebrates Yom Haatzmaut with Zimriyah competition


Photo by Alec Silberg, Dimensions

The junior class performs their song and hand motions for Zimriyah.

Jessica Rosenberg, Reporter

Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s day of independence, was celebrated throughout the school on May 5. As part of the festivities, Upper School grades competed in Zimriyah, a song and dance competition. Due to COVID-19, this was the first in-person Zimriyah competition since May 2019. 

“When I pass through the halls and I hear the students singing their song for Zimriyah, it makes my heart so happy and it adds happiness to the school,” Upper School Hebrew Language Chair and Hebrew teacher Shelli Putterman-Kenett said. 

Sophomore Abby Greenberg shared this sentiment about Zimriyah. Her favorite part about rehearsals for her grade’s dance was at the end of each one when everyone in her grade would form a stretching circle. 

“It’s just a fun moment for us all to be together and just enjoy each other’s company for a minute and take a break from practicing,” Greenberg said. 

When Zimriyah planning first started in January, everyone wore masks and distanced due to the surge of the Omicron variant. The Hebrew Department had a backup plan to do Zimriyah outside, since they were worried about having the whole school together indoors. 

“It was very very complicated to arrange these events because there were so many question marks,” Anat Kaufman, High School Hebrew teacher, Zimriyah Coordinator and Liaison for the High School Israeli families said. 

From the end of January to the beginning of May, the Hebrew department joined together to plan what Zimriyah would look like. The sophomore and junior classes chose their own songs, while the Hebrew department selected the songs for the other grades. Songs that matched the theme of love and togetherness of Zimriyah were chosen. Each high school grade government worked on designing and ordering their grade’s Israel themed T-shirts to wear as they performed their Zimriyah dances.

The day before Yom Ha’atzmaut, Yom Hazikaron, the school commemorated the soldiers who died fighting for the state of Israel. At nightfall, there was a transition from the sadness of Yom Hazikaron to the jubilance of Yom Ha’atzmaut. Kaufman said this time of transition is a very special hour in the life of Israelis and is the most difficult time for her to not be in Israel. 

“I feel so honored to lead these two events and to have all the students at the JDS together with me in these strong feelings,” Kaufman said. “It will be very emotional, everyone will feel the sadness. And the next day, 24 hours after, they will feel so excited and so happy.” 

Three members of the larger JDS community judged the performances: Tess Mendelson (‘21), Debbie Kulp and Gil Preuss.  

“Just sitting back and judging and just watching how happy everyone is and how much it brings the grade together is so amazing,” Mendelson said. 

Before the announcement of the winners, all middle and high school teachers danced to the Israeli song “Halev Sheli” while waving Israeli flags. There was a projected video from the class of 2022 wishing the rest of the Upper School a “Yom Ha’atzmaut Sameach” from Israel.

The entire Upper School gave a big drumroll as the seventh grade was announced winner of the middle school contest and the sophomores as the high school winners. Mendelson was impressed by how cohesively the seventh grade danced even for their first time performing at Zimriyah. She loved the sophomores’ energy and how they performed flawlessly from the start to finish of their dance. 

Although exciting, Mendelson does not believe winning is the most significant aspect of Zimriyah.

“It’s so important for everyone to feel some sort of connection to Israel and, before the Israel trip, my only connection was Zimriyah,” she said. “I think it’s a really amazing way to get kids excited about Israel and about Israel’s people.”