On Sunday, June 3, thousands of supporters of Israel lined the sidewalks of Fifth Avenue stretching from 57th Street to 74th Street for New York’s 54th annual parade honoring the State of Israel. Previously named the Salute to Israel Parade, the renamed Celebrate Israel Parade brought together hundreds of yeshiva day schools, community organizations, dignitaries and marching bands to show support for Israel. For Israel’s 70th year of independence the parade’s theme was “70 and Sababa,” Hebrew for “awesome.”
Dignitaries participating in the parade included Israeli U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon, flanked by other U.N. ambassadors, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, New York Senator Chuck Schumer, NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, and a delegation from the New York City Council, including Riverdale’s Andrew Cohen. In addition, the crowd was greeted by Dr. Ruth Westheimer who rode onto the scene in an open-topped vintage car from the City of New York’s classic car-parade collection. Parade-goers received many souvenirs from the marchers that included flags, T-shirts, bracelets, water bottles and flower seeds. Some lucky attendees even caught panda bears, courtesy of the America China Public Affairs Institute.
“The parade is the highlight of the year. It is really a culmination and a celebration of what our day schools are ingraining in our children all through the school year,” explained Michelle Goldberg, a Westchester Day School (WDS) alum and parent. “It is an important message to show our children young and old, rain or shine, we always stand with Israel. A strong America is a strong Israel and a strong Israel is a strong America. America and Israel are true friends. The enthusiasm the kids bring as they march proudly up Fifth Avenue is something that cannot be beat.”
New Rochelle resident Lacey Kalb, wife and mother of marchers from several schools, has been coming to the event since she was in third grade herself. “I come to the parade to show my love and support for Israel,” Kalb stated.
When asked why she marches year after year, WDS parent Sarra Lorbert explained, “I march to support Israel and our school.” She reminisced about her favorite marching experience: “I was eight months pregnant and there was torrential rain, but I still marched.”
WDS sixth grade student Netanel stated, “I think it’s important to march in the parade in order to voice our support for Israel and the Israeli people. They should know that American Jews stand with them.” His 5-year-old brother, Adir, said, “I like the parade because of all the floats and flags.”
SAR fourth grader and first-time marcher Alyssa Sarasohn explained, “I marched in the parade because I want to show that I am happy there is a State of Israel. It was the first time I was marching and I got to see all the people supporting Israel lining the parade route.”
Esther, an SAR first grader stated, “I can’t wait to march in three years, because I love Israel and the parade!’
Rabbi Aaron Frank, head of school of Kinneret Day School, explained that their school’s theme this year was celebrating the Hebrew language. “We displayed it on our banner and with over 500 balloons with Hebrew letters,” he described. Rabbi Frank stated that the reason for marching is “to show our commitment, love and connection to Israel. It is also to show our connection to our amazing Jewish community here in New York. The parade teaches the unity of all Jews behind the love of the land and State of Israel.” As for his favorite parade memory, Rabbi Frank said: “I think the greatest memories are from our students and alumni. I love watching them wear parade shirts from the past years and how it is such a part of the fabric of the life of our school.”
The celebrations continued after the parade ended, with the 25th Annual Concert in the Park and an Israeli Block Party in Times Square.
By Judy Berger