Approximately 50 community members of various ages and ethnicities channeled their creativity to spread hope during The Great Neck Dove Project at Temple Beth-El on Tuesday, Oct. 24.
Participants expressed themselves in song, conversation and art, as they each decorated a paper dove with words and drawings to reflect their thoughts, prayers and feelings during this heartbreaking time. Though the intention of the evening was engagement, many attendees also donated funds to the UJA Federation Israel Emergency Fund.
Event organizers Joanna Stolove and Gabrielle “Gabby” Verkman distributed the decorated doves to businesses throughout the Great Neck community on Sunday, Nov. 12, and the doves were displayed in storefront windows along Middle Neck Road.
“We hoped to bring a moment of light to these dark times with The Great Neck Dove Project,” said Stolove and Verkman. “During the nondenominational gathering at Temple Beth-El, we wanted to come together in song and creative expression, to make doves that signify peace and harmony, and then share our creations with businesses throughout Great Neck in an effort to bring everyone together.”
The two were inspired to organize this event as a reaction to feeling emotional, angry and raw following the October 7 attack on Israel and were looking for a way to process their reactions.
“We wanted a gathering that would include the entire Great Neck community and leave everyone feeling just a little more nurtured,” they said. “We were immediately drawn to the idea of song and creative expression. As we explored these ideas further, we wanted this nurtured feeling to go beyond the event and spread throughout the wider community. The doves provided a perfect symbol for what we wanted to put out into the community. By coincidence, our event coincided with the reading of parashah Noach, where the dove represents hope for dry land.”
The organizers were impressed with the way Temple Beth-El’s Cantor Adam Davis compiled both Hebrew and English songs of peace and healing, and projected their lyrics on a large screen so participants could sing along.
“It was truly moving to see such a diverse group of the community joined together in song,” noted Stolove and Verkman.
Following the singing, participants sat together at tables, engaged in discussion, and added their personal expression to the doves.
“It was exactly as we had hoped—a warm and nurturing experience,” Stolove and Verkman continued. “Attendees expressed gratitude for the opportunity to engage in a nondenominational event to support Israel and the Great Neck Jewish community.”
When distributing the doves to area businesses, the event coordinators found the response to be more uplifting than they had hoped.
“As it turns out, this experience was even more heartwarming than the event,” reflected Stolove and Verkman. “We were greeted openly and with such kindness from all the businesses. The support was overwhelming.”
The duo was unable to make it into every store—and some shops were unable to accept the doves due to franchising restrictions—but they are so grateful to those who have displayed these hopeful symbols, including Crawfords Coffee and Café, Daddy’s Barber Shop, Exotic Smoke Shop, Flower City Inc., Gino’s Pizzeria, Great Neck Diner, Great Neck Value Store, Great Neck Wines and Spirits, Homemade Taqueria—Hecho en Casa, Kai Burgers and Dumplings, Kensington Kosher Deli, Meet Y Hair Salon, Mi Casa Es Tu Casa, Middle Neck News and Convenience, Miu Miu’s Eyelash, Neel Threading and Waxing, Nohara Ramen, Salina’s Eyebrows Threading, Smoke Shop, Soku, Tidal Tea, U1 Nail & Eyelash, Yahao Asian Cuisine and Yi Fang Taiwan Fruit Tea.
“People of all ages have said how much they loved coming together as a community to sing and create the doves,” expressed Stolove and Verkman. “We encourage everyone to take a walk on Middle Neck Road and seek out the doves. Stop inside and thank the store owners for their willingness to display them. We’re all still heartbroken and in pain, but the doves are a small sign of hope throughout our community.”
Founded in 1928, Temple Beth-El, the peninsula’s first synagogue, is located at 5 Old Mill Rd. in Great Neck. To learn more, call 516-487-0900, visit www.tbegreatneck.org or email email@example.com.
—Submitted by Temple Beth-El