Jewish Celebration for All Generations

Ian Carpe, 5, sat at a table drawing a Star of David in blue and yellow crayon.

"Good--now draw a habdalah candle," said his father, Richard.

"Will you make that one for me, Daddy?" asked Ian, turning his crayon over to his father.

More than just a coloring lesson, the exercise was one of many ways one could celebrate Jewish traditions at the recent Israel Fair at the Orange County Fairgrounds.

While young Ian colored his star, Albert Serber, a Leisure World resident who is in his 80s, sat on a fold-out chair and with weathered hands made another star in needlepoint--one from a photograph of the Courtyard of the Rabbis in Girona, Spain.

"I always design needlepoints with a Jewish theme, because so much of our heritage was lost in the Holocaust," Serber said.

Other fair-goers found ways to help preserve their heritage in more boisterous fashion. They joined hands and practiced Israeli folk dancing. They ate falafels, knishes and bagels. They clapped hands to the rock tunes of the "Bar Mitzvah Boys." They watched students demonstrate Israeli martial arts.

In "Old Jerusalem," a section of booths separated by a wall of brown paper, visitors listened to storytellers, watched puppeteers and learned new crafts.

At the Jewish Genealogy Society's booth, fair-goers pored over computer printouts in search of their roots. The lists contained the names of their ancestors by their hometowns--but only if someone was working on that family's tree.

"I couldn't find my family, and my father was one of 24 children!" complained an elderly man.

Many showed off traditional Jewish crafts. Some displayed beautiful hand-stitched huppahs, or marriage canopies. Calligraphers demonstrated the fine writing techniques used to create Torah scrolls. Chefs squared off in a baking contest to see who could make the best kugel, a Jewish side dish.

For 16 years, the Jewish Federation of Orange County has sponsored the fair to draw together members of the Jewish community.

Jewish organizations and Israel support groups join in the festivities by setting up booths and educational displays.

This year's fair attracted about 9,000 people, according to spokeswoman Chelle Friedman, and not everyone who attended was Jewish.

"It's not only for the Jewish community--it's our way of sharing a little bit about ourselves," Friedman says.

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