Six years ago, the Memphis Friends of Israel was formed as a nonprofit by likeminded Jews and Christians, and three years ago, the first Israel Festival was held. But, says Shep Fargotstein of Memphis Friends, the festival is not a political statement, nor is it about religion. It is simply, Fargotstein says, about having fun.
The free event at Shelby Farms kicks off with a 5K at 9 a.m. Sunday. There will be a balloon bounce, a petting zoo, and face-painting for the kids. One tent will be devoted to kosher foods, including hot dogs, hummus, and sweets. (There will be non-kosher food as well.) The New Orleans-based Panorama Jazz Band will play klezmer and Eastern European songs on the music stage. Also performing is the Memphis Klezmer Band, a group of local studio musicians who come together for this event each year. Local celebrities will be in attendance (hello, Josh Pastner!), and there will be an "Ask the Rabbi" corner.
Fargotstein sees the event as akin to Memphis' Greek and Italian festivals and even a little like the Memphis in May festivals before they grew so big. (They're considering adding a kosher barbecue element to the festival.) "It's going back to the good old days," Fargotstein says of the family-friendly event. "It's about enjoying a pretty day in the park."
Israel Festival, Shelby Farms, Sunday, May 16th, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information, go to memphisfoi.org.