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W.Va. Israel Independence Day celebrated at Pullman Square

Apr. 21, 2013 @ 11:02 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Pullman Square might be located in the heart of Herdville, but on Sunday afternoon, the colors of the faithful were a sea of blue and white.

Hundreds of folks gathered in the Square Sunday afternoon and proudly wore and waved the blue and white colors of Israel -- for the third annual West Virginia Israel Independence Day Celebration.

Sponsored by Christ Temple Church and Huntington Jewish Federated Charities in conjunction with West Virginia's Coalition of Friends for Israel (http://www.cofi-wv.org), the dance, music and speech-filled event commemorated the 65th anniversary of the rebirth of ancient Israel as a modern independent nation.

Armed with their Shofar or Ram's Horns, the Shomar (which means Watchmen in Hebrew) dance team from the Sar Shalom Bible Center in Hurricane, W.Va., danced traditional dances as did the center's women's group, the Thunder of Zion dancers.

Cheryl Hobba, who started the Jewish/Christian ministry about seven years ago, said this was the second year they've come over to Huntington to show love and solidarity among Jewish and Christian friends in support of Israel.

"That is us -- zealous for Israel," Hobba said as her church's women's group took the stage for a dance. "We are a church of Jewish and Christian studies, and thus we strongly stand for Israel."

At the event, which was emceed by Christ Temple Church pastor Chuck Lawrence, attendees not only enjoyed the traditional Jewish dances and music of Israel, but also a series of presentations about the unique state from students such as Joey Newfield, a Cabell Midland High School student who spent nearly a month traveling in Israel last summer, and Megan Garrett, a Marshall University student who is heading to Israel to teach for two years.

"Israel is a remarkably advanced country that has given us everything from flash drives to cell phones," Garrett said, before explaining other advances including the ReWalk Exoskeleton, the Iron Dome missile defense system and its cutting-edge desalinization technology.

For members of the B'Nai Sholom Congregation in Huntington, Sunday's public event was part of three days of services and celebrations at the Synagogue.

Sunday, three of the seven Jewish rabbis in West Virginia were on hand for the service. Rabbi Jean Eglinton and retired Rabbi David Wucher of B'Nai Sholom and Rabbi Victor Urecki of Charleston.

Wucher, who served the congregation for 23 years before retiring in 2011, said he couldn't help starting off his remarks without making a historical reference.

"April 20 was Adolf Hitler's birthday," Wucher said. "He is long gone. He is buried in the grave and perhaps in a much warmer place than here. But the state of Israel is alive and well."

Wucher also paid tribute to the late Art Weisberg, founder of State Electric and community philanthropist who died last year.

Wucher said that Weisberg, a World War II vet, was a pillar of the community who never wavered in his love of the United States and Israel and who loved people coming together in peace and unity.

"He never lost heart, and I hope we can all have that confidence," Wucher said. "He used to come to me when times were tough in Huntington and say, 'Rabbi we are going to make it if we all work together' ... and how wonderful it is when brethren come together in peace and harmony, Jews and Christians coming together for the values we share. Let's work together for these values that we love and cherish."

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