Between 35,000 and 40,000 people spent Sunday, May 15 at Woodley Park in Van Nuys for the annual Israel Independence Day festival.
The festival's early afternoon main event featuring pro-Israel speeches and politicians lasted exactly one hour; on the last note of "The Star-Spangled Banner" skydivers appeared above. "The coincidence was amazing," festival executive director Yoram Gutman said.
In the late afternoon, more than 7,000 people crowded the festival's main stage to hear Israeli pop superstar Sarit Hadad. Fire marshals had difficulty clearing fans from the aisles.
About 256 vendors served up food, drink and ideology to a crowd free of violence, crime and medical problems, although one young girl fainted.
Also competing for the attention of Jewish Los Angeles was Big Sunday, a citywide Jewish volunteer project that grew out of Mitzvah Day at Temple Israel of Hollywood. More than 8,000 volunteers from 140 Jewish and non-Jewish institutions helped the blind, planted trees, cleaned up trash and painted kids' faces.
Piles of plastic bags sat in a corner of Temple Israel's parking garage, each filled with donated clothes. "We had mountains of bags and boxes of clothing," said Jackie Simon, the general studies coordinator at the synagogue's day school, who added that Westwood's Sinai Temple also was a drop-off point for Big Sunday clothes.
Now in its seventh year, Big Sunday this year received a $25,000 donation from Toyota, plus clothing donated by the Indigo and Lucky Brand lines, Big Sunday chair David Levinson said.
Other shuls participating in Big Sunday included Temple Beth Am, Temple Beth Haverim, Beth Jacob Congregation, Beth Shir Sholom, B'nai David-Judea Congregation, Temple Isaiah, Congregation Kol Ami, Temple Knesset Israel of Hollywood, Leo Baeck Temple and Congregation Shaarei Tefila, plus The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, UCLA's Hillel, KOREH L.A. and Shalhevet High School.