Walk for Israel returns to Downtown Milwaukee

The Milwaukee-area Walk for Israel, the largest annual pro-Israel event in the state, is returning to Downtown Milwaukee this year.

It will be led by a new ambulance beforeit’s put into service in Israel. The walk this year will also offer music in “silence,” a nod to a time of year when some observant Jews avoid listening to music.

“The music will be there, in a fun way,” said Keren Weisshaus, who is a Federation-affiliated emissary to Milwaukee from Israel, known as the Milwaukee community shlichah. Weisshaus was part of the event planning.

The walk, held Sunday, May 19, 2019, is to mark Yom HaAtzmaut, the Israeli Independence Day. An opening ceremony is to be held at the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center, 750 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive, at 3 p.m., followed by the start of the 1.5 mile solidarity walk at 3:30 p.m. Hundreds of walkers are to make their way back to the war memorial at 4:30 p.m., for a celebration of Israel’s diverse culture through fashion, art, instruments and more.

“Ever since I have been in BBYO I remember the Walk for Israel,” said event co-chair Rachael Marks. 

“Back in the day it used to be 16 kilometers around Milwaukee and we would get our passport stamped as we stopped at each Israeli checkpoint. The Walk for Israel has always been an opportunity for the community to come together and celebrate our common love for Israel,” Marks said.

How to go

What: Yom HaAtzmaut, the Israeli Independence Day, and its Walk for Israel.

When: Sunday, May 19, 3–6:30 p.m.; Walk at 3:30 p.m.

Where: Milwaukee County War Memorial Center, 750 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive.

Cost: Free. Food is $5 or $20 for a family. Parking is free. 

More info: MilwaukeeJewish.org/Yamim

“This is Milwaukee’s biggest event of the year to show support for the people of Israel. Milwaukee and Israel have a long relationship,” said Miryam Rosenzweig, president and CEO of Milwaukee Jewish Federation. “We are the only community with 50 years of a community emissary and we look forward to continuing to build a vibrant future here in Milwaukee, in Israel and around the world.”

Walk returns Downtown

The walk has returned to Downtown Milwaukee this year. It was held at the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay last year, after two years Downtown.

“We had two successful years Downtown,” said Rabbi Hannah Wallick, Milwaukee Jewish Federation vice president of outreach, Israel and overseas. “We’ve been experimenting with different places, and people really missed the war memorial, so we brought it back.”

The Magen David is Israel’s national emergency service and its ambulance is to join the event. It will be fresh from manufacture in Illinois and it has an anonymous local sponsor, according to a Jewish National Fund spokesman.

Upon returning to the war memorial, walkers will find activity tables at the back patio, plus an opportunity to join the “silent disco.” It’s a chance to wear headphones, which will be provided without charge, and dance “to your own tune,” said Weisshaus.

The headphones will also protect the observant from the music. Listening to instrumental music is not permitted during the Omer, which is a 33 day period that starts with Passover. Thus, the entire event is slated to avoid open-air music, Weisshaus said. “I saw it in Israel. It’s really fun,” she added.

“We love that a silent disco allows the entire community to celebrate,” said Marks, adding that the Walk is “for everyone.”

“It will be wonderful to see every segment of Jewish Milwaukee celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut together,” Rosenzweig said.

Focus on diversity

Yom HaAtzmaut and other Yamim events (see pages 5, 12, 27) will be focused on a diversity theme this year. Specifically, the events will highlight that the diverse Jewish people are “Joined Together by a Common Thread” — from slavery to freedom, from victimization to sovereignty.

“Because Israel has Jews from all over the Diaspora they brought their food, music, the way they dress,” Weisshaus said. “Israel became a big, giant, gathering point of all those traditions.”

Israeli musician Tal Kravitz won’t be playing music at the event, but he will be hosting a program related to musical instruments and Israel’s diversity. 

Don’t miss the exhibit in the atrium. There will be an exhibition of Jewish wardrobe items from different parts of the Diaspora, in keeping with the theme of Israeli diversity. Also, there will be a torch-lighting ceremony for the first time, similar to how Israel marks the occasion. (See story, page 5.)

Meal choices at $5 will include hot dogs, chicken shawarma and salad for a $20 family maximum. While supplies last, bandanas celebrating Israel with hamsas on them will be given out at the event.

The co-chairs of the event are Marks, Robyn Eiseman and Mitch Nelles.

“Our family loves all things Israel so when I was asked to co-chair Yom Hatzmauut it was a no-brainer! We have hosted mifgashim and the shinshin Omer Saida and from these experiences we learned so much about Israel and strengthened our connection to Israel,” said Eiseman. “Two summers ago we traveled to Israel as a family and our children have participated in the Onward summer programs there. We look forward to walking with our community to celebrate Israel and to the unique celebration afterwards.”

Nelles agreed: “I have always loved the Walk for Israel – but even more so since having kids. I love seeing how much fun my girls have during the walk, surrounded by loving, friendly faces.”