3-Minute Interview: Neal Levy

The executive director of Israel Center for the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation is among the organizers of Israel in the Gardens. This year, the event celebrates the 60th anniversary of Israel’s independence. The outdoor gathering runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday in Yerba Buena Gardens.

What’s the purpose of Israel in the Gardens? It’s to honor and celebrate the whole mosaic of the Jewish community.

Can you generalize about the character of the local Jewish community? It’s very much like the general population here: progressive, liberal, diverse and less traditional and conservative than in other places.

Are politics involved in Israel in the Gardens? No. People think gatherings about Israel always have to be about conflict. This isn’t. I like to compare it to other big cultural events in The City, like Cinco de Mayo or Chinese New Year. It’s open to everyone; it’s great.

What do you think is the most fun attraction at the festival? The headliners, the Idan Raichel Project, are a world music group; they’re fantastic, phenomenal — an East-meets-West flavor.

What’s the most educational aspect? There’s an interesting exhibit from Israel describing 60 years of the country’s achievements and challenges.

What are somechallenges facing the Jewish population? Assimilation remains the biggest concern of American Jews, continuing the whole debate about how to be effective in strengthening Jewish identity.

Will there be food at the festival? Yes! Israeli food — falafel and kebabs. And lots of art and books, too.

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