Chef Joe will be manning the grill as community Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration returns to Red Caboose Park

Posted on: April 29th, 2017 by tgregory

The popular New York-based trio Jonathan Rimberg and Friends, show here at the 2016 Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration in Red Caboose Park, will again provide the musical entertainment at this month’s celebration of Israel’s independence day. (Photo by Rick Malkin)

What: Free community celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day

When: 3-6 p.m., Sunday, May 7

Where: Red Caboose Park, 694 Colice Jeanne Road

Contact: Adi Ben Dor at

Joe Perlen has cooked the food for a lot of community events over the years – fundraisers and Purim carnivals at Akiva School, BBYO’s annual Pasta before Passover party. 

“At Akiva they call me Chef Joe,” he says. “I know how to cook for a whole bunch of people,” 

On Sunday, May 7, Chef Joe will be cooking for one of the Nashville Jewish community’s largest gatherings – the annual celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, sponsored by Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee in conjunction with the Gordon Jewish Community Center and the active participation of the local congregations and Jewish agencies.

The celebration will be from 3-6 p.m. at Red Caboose Park at 694 Colice Jeanne Road in Bellevue. (If there’s rain, it will move indoors at the GJCC.) 

Returning to provide the musical entertainment this year will be a three-man band led by Jonathan Rimberg, a popular New York City musician and bandleader whose synthesizes traditional Jewish, Israeli and American style music, said Adi Ben Dor, the Jewish Federation’s community shlichah, who has been organizing the celebration.  The Nashville Israeli folk dance group will be on hand to lead traditional and contemporary Israeli dancing, she said, and there will be a bouncy house, face painting and other activities for children. 

And food, of course. Perlen will be bringing the grill from Akiva to cook kosher hot dogs and will also provide typical Israeli fare like falafel, pita and salad. There will also be three food trucks providing parve and dairy fare: Farm2Mesa, Dan’s Gourmet Mac & Cheese, and Blue Monkey Shaved Ice. 

Ben Dor, she fully expects this year’s celebration to recreate the excitement of from last year’s, when it was held in Red Caboose Park for the first time and drew more than 500 people. 

“It’s going to be fun,” she said. “Everyone is really excited.”

There are a couple of changes to this year’s Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration. In the past, it has begun with a ceremony and readings in observance of Yom Hazikaron, the day on which Israelis remember terror victims and soldiers who have died in defense of the country. The Yom Hazikaron commemoration is being held separately this year on May 1 at Congregation Micah.

The Independence Day event will begin with a brief moment of silence and the recorded sound of sirens wailing before transitioning into a celebratory mood with the singing of Hatikva, the Israeli national anthem. In that way, it will still simulate the experience of Israelis themselves, who solemnly observe Yom Hazikaron one day and then celebrate the nation’s founding on the next. (This year, the two holidays fall on May 1 and 2.)

This year also will see a modification to the torch-lighting ceremony of recent Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrations in which 12 individuals or groups were honored for their efforts to strengthen ties between Nashville and Israel. Instead the Jewish Federation will honor the city’s five Jewish congregations, who will be represented by either their presidents, past presidents or incoming presidents. Currently serving as the congregational presidents are: Barbara Dab of West End Synagogue, Roberta Goodman of Congregation Sherith Israel, Jeff Landman of Congregation Micah, Michael Simon of Congregation Beit Tefilah Chabad and Martin Sir of The Temple-Congregation Ohabai Sholom.

“Given the success of the community mission to Israel last year that included all five congregations and their continued support for Israel advocacy and education, it’s fitting and appropriate that we recognize the congregations for their ongoing commitment and deep love for the people and land of Israel,” said Jewish Federation Executive Director Mark S. Freedman.  •