Jewish heritage festival met with protesters

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Jewish Heritage Festival Met With Controversy, Protesters
By ALI WOLF

SACRAMENTO - More than a thousand people gathered at Raley Field on Sunday for a celebration of Jewish culture.

The event, which also honored Israel Independence Day, was met with some controversy.

About a dozen anti-Israel protesters rallied in front of Raley Field.

Organizers say the event is meant to bring the community together.

"We want people to learn about how vibrant, how alive, how warm and welcoming our community is," said Barry Broad, president of the Jewish Federation of Sacramento.

People of all ages came to enjoy performances, learn about local organizations and eat kosher food.

"I really enjoy being Jewish, and I think it's really awesome to experience this," said attendee Laura Chain.

This is the first year the event was held at Raley Field.

Many in the Jewish community were excited to attend.

"You should always believe in your culture, always believe in who you are, we emphasize that," said attendee David Chain.

Students sang the Israeli national anthem in honor of Israel Independence Day.

"Jews are getting together in solidarity of Israel, which is a miracle," said Rabbi Mendi Cohen, of Chabad Sacramento.

Outside, drums and chants drowned out the songs.

Protesters chanted, "Free free Palestine,"

"We think there is no reason to celebrate Israel right now. Israel is engaged in war crimes," said Maggie Coulter from the Sacramento Regional Coalition.

Coulter and the rest of the protesters encouraged people not to attend the event.

"We're also upset that what you've got here is a conflation of a religion with a governmental entity," Coulter said.

Security guards surrounded the protesters.

Inside, organizers were aware of what was going on.

They said it was not a big surprise because the conflict has lasted decades.

"In every generation, there are people that hate us, and that's just the way it goes," Broad said.

The protest did not impact the event.

The Jewish Federation of Sacramento hopes to continue the festival for years to come.

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