Great Neck residents from various organizations joined more than 40,000 marchers and hundreds of thousands of spectators at the annual Celebrate Israel Parade in New York City on Sunday, June 2.
Sephardic Heritage Alliance Inc. (SHAI) members in tandem with a contingent from Temple Israel of Great Neck, North Shore Hebrew Academy students, Senator Anna Kaplan and local residents with the World Zionist Organization were among the community leaders, entertainers, artists, musicians, dancers, celebrities, floats and marching bands participating in the parade from the peninsula.
“This year, during times of great instability and rising anti-Semitism, it was more critically important than ever for Jews and our allies to show up and support our nation’s greatest ally, the modern State of Israel,” said SHAI President Rebecca Sassouni.
Marching with Governor Cuomo, Kaplan expressed a similar sentiment.
“With Israel facing new challenges on a daily basis, it’s never been more important to show solidarity with our Israeli friends,” said Kaplan. “I’m proud to say that New York will always stand with Israel.”
An impromptu walk by thousands of American Zionist youth down Riverside Drive in support of the young State of Israel in 1965 gradually evolved to include Jewish community organizations, synagogues, marching bands and floats as it morphed into the Salute to Israel Parade on Fifth Avenue.
The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of New York assumed management of the parade in 2011, and renamed it Celebrate Israel Parade, focusing on celebrating the vibrant and diverse state, which just commemorated its 71st anniversary.
“SHAI proudly leads a contingent from Great Neck every year,” noted Sassouni. “This year we had two bus loads, plus people who met us in New York City. We have the largest Israeli flag, which was noted from the bandstand and on news coverage on WPIX.”
This year’s theme was Only in Israel—Rak B’Yisrael for these reasons:
“Where in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles. Where ancient villages stand beside ultra-modern cities. Where a 2,000-year-old language was resurrected for modern speech. Where exiles from the four corners of the world have come home. Where skill and chutzpah together make the impossible come true. Where barren deserts are transformed into flourishing fields. Where diverse cultures produce a fusion of global cuisine. Where pioneers build new frontiers in science and technology. Where water can be produced from thin air. Where those with incurable diseases are cured. Where if you will it, it is no dream. Only in Israel.”
For the many participants, the parade is a culmination of a year-long Israel educational effort incorporating this theme. Each group works with the parade staff to develop a creative presentation with colorful banners, costumes and props in a show of unity and pageantry as they march from 57th to 74th streets during the five-hour parade.
“Our students, together with faculty members Karen Zalta and Lucy Zucker, created banners and T-shirts that celebrated Israel as the center of global innovation, highlighting companies, inventions and movements in art and humanities that drive progress throughout the world,” explained Abigail Weiss, director of Institutional Advancement at North Shore Hebrew Academy.