The Celebrate Israel parade is a statement of unity and community.
It is also a celebration of springtime.
And it is fun – and that matters too.
The walk up Fifth Avenue, from 57th to 74th streets, is glorious. On your left as you march (or stroll or skip or saunter) up the avenue, Central Park’s trees are great green-and-brown towers. On the right, we look at the great avenue’s elegant apartment houses, great statements of wealth and power, made in an age when such things were expressed in a code unlike the ones we know today, when stonemasons and artists were given free rein.
And then the street itself is lined with cheering onlookers, waving flags, boosting up babies, smiling.
The marchers and spectators represent all parts of Jewish life. Some are from Israel, some come from other parts of this country, but most come from all corners of the tristate area, across every bridge and through every tunnel. It seems that all of New Jersey is represented, down its southernmost tip and across it to Philadelphia; Long Island buses in hosts of people, and others come from the wilds of northwestern Connecticut.
A sociologist of the modern Jewish condition could have a field day with the people on Fifth Avenue. Some women and girls wear skirts, some wear jeans, some wear shorts. Some have scanty tops, others have long sleeves. Most of the men and boys have covered their heads, but not all, and head coverings run a gamut, from black hats to knit kippot to baseball caps to motorcycle helmets. (Those generally are on the motorcycle riders; there usually is a group of them, often with big Jewish stars on their bikes or their leather jackets.) There are elaborate floats and small straggly groups, there are small children holding up big banners for short times. There are the Russians, proudly identifiable by their signs. Schools, shuls, federations, fraternal groups, affinity groups – everyone shows up.
We wouldn’t all speak to each other, but somehow we march together.
The groups represent a huge spectrum of beliefs, joined in a love for Israel but not in how they define that love and how they think it should work out in practice. On this day, that doesn’t matter.
There often is a group of men, dressed all in black, standing off to a side, holding a sign denouncing Israel and all the rest of us, proclaiming Zionism to be a sickness. Naturei Karta. They are cordoned off by the police as they shout at the rest of us; we try to ignore them, and usually in a block we have forgotten them, swept away as we are in the whirl of color and sound.
There are many delegations going from our community. Among them is the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey. Everyone is welcome to join the federation’s delegation. A bus will leave from the JCC of Paramus, at 304 E. Midland Ave., at 11:30 a.m. The cost is $18 per person, $65 per family, which covers the bus fare, a T-shirt, and snacks. For more information or to register, call Joyce at (201) 820-3907 or email her at email@example.com.