MUNSTER | The annual Walk With Israel took on a special celebratory spirit Sunday as the more than 100 participants honored Israel’s 65th anniversary as a modern nation.
Sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Northwest Indiana and local synagogues, the three-mile walk through parts of Munster drew multiple generations — from babies in strollers to 97-year-old Ida Friedman, of Munster, who is president of the federation’s Adult Friendship Club and a longtime member of Congregation Beth Israel.
Friedman said she’s helped raise thousands of dollars in donations at similar walks to support programs in Israel and Northwest Indiana. She stepped off from the federation offices on Progress Avenue with the group carrying signs and American and Israeli flags.
Funds raised during the walk will be donated to Partnership2Gether, a program that helps foster Jewish identity and strengthen ties between Northwest Indiana and Western Galilee in Israel, said Nancy Coltun Webster, media editor with the Jewish Federation.
“We are part of the Central Area Consortium and Partnership2Gether promotes people-to-people relationships with cultural, social, medical, educational and economic programs,” said Webster, of Munster.
The walk celebrated more than Israel’s Independence Day, said Omri Markovitz, of Tel Aviv. He is the Jewish Federation’s shaliach, an Israeli native who works with the Jewish community in Northwest Indiana for a year.
“We also celebrate the relationship between Israel and the United States,” said Markovitz, who will return to Tel Aviv in August. “Israel may be the closest ally the U.S. has.”
Those connections between the Calumet Region and Israel are important for youths because the traditions need to pass from generation to generation, said Danielle Oberman, 14, an eighth-grader at Wilbur Wright Middle School in Munster who walked with friends and family members.
“In the summer of 2011, I went to Israel with my family and a congregation from New York where my cousin is rabbi,” she said. “I was re-bat mitzvahed at the Western Wall. I got to celebrate that with my cousin, who had his bar mitzvah there.”
The entire Marks family, including dog, Moose, came from Hobart to join the Walk With Israel.
“We came over here to support Israel,” said Richard Marks, who was accompanied by his wife, Kim, and two daughters. They are members of Temple Beth-El in Munster.