Israel parade draws thousands — but some are not able to march

Israel parade draws thousands — but some are not able to march

Those who marched in Sunday’s Israeli Day Parade in Manhattan enjoyed fellowship, high spirits, and sunny skies. But for those who wanted to march but couldn’t, the day was a lot less fun. While an estimated 100,000 marchers showed up, hundreds found themselves left out of the main event.

Batel Cohen, marching with five other high school students from the Israeli city of Nahariya, felt more Zionist in New York City than in Israel. Her group participated with members of Tzofim, a youth group from the JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly.

Top, Despite a long delay, members of Temple Israel in Ridgewood manage to participate in the parade.

"We knew about the parade before coming here, but we never thought it would be like this," said Cohen. "It was amazing."

The parade capped a week in which the Israel students — who took part in Partnership ‘000, a program of the UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey — spoke about Israel and Jerusalem at Jewish schools in River Edge, Leonia, Englewood, Teaneck, Woodcliff Lake, Fort Lee, and Park Ridge.

Among those who couldn’t march — apparently because the marchers were backed up — was Galeet Lipke, who was part of a contingent of between ’00 and 300 people representing UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey. The group included members of 10 Bergen County synagogues. Of those, perhaps only the group from Temple Israel of Ridgewood made it to Fifth Avenue — by inserting themselves during a break in the traffic. Others may have also pushed their way in, but between 75 and 80 members of the Jewish Community Center of Paramus were not able to join the line of march. The synagogue’s Rabbi Arthur Weiner said, on Wednesday, that the congregants, although disappointed, would show up in even larger numbers next year to support Israel and the parade.

Lipke, an administrative assistant to David Hyman, director of the Israel Program Center at UJA-NNJ, stood with her group at the corner of 54th Street and Fifth Avenue from 1:45 p.m., when they were scheduled to start, until 3:45 p.m., when some of the groups — including hers — decided to leave.

As Lipke sees it, the event wasn’t as well coordinated as it should have been because the organizers, the Israel Tribute Committee, didn’t expect so many spectators. "The parade itself wasn’t moving, and Fifth Avenue was jammed," she said. "There were so many people, we couldn’t move."

Miriam Allenson, assistant director of marketing and communications at UJA-NNJ, said the situation was "disappointing" — particularly because over the past few weeks there was "a feeling of excitement and joy, and the parade should have been the culmination of all the excitement."

Varda Dabas, coordinator of marching bands and community outreach at the New York-based Israel Tribute Committee, said the organization is looking into the causes of the delays. But she maintained that no single person was to blame. She said that overbooking wasn’t an issue because the new marching bands had simply replaced old ones that didn’t march this year. Everyone who calls the organization or writes a letter of complaint will get a response, she added, but unfortunately, she said, some religious leaders are using intemperate language.

"We are not making excuses," she said. "We take the time to talk to every single person who calls. We want to make sure that this doesn’t happen [again]." She also dismissed complaints that the parade volunteers didn’t have cell-phones and walkie-talkies as inaccurate.

In an e-mail sent to participants on Monday by Hillary Yohlin, educational director for the parade, Yohlin acknowledged that for many, the event was "both concerning and taxing" and apologized "for the long delays that occurred in extreme heat and any other discomfort you and your participants experienced."

Johanna Rosen of Temple Israel of Ridgewood arrived at 1:15 p.m. at the assigned demarcation point with some 45 other congregants. They were scheduled to start marching at 1:45 p.m. They waited until 3:45 p.m., then congregant Arie Bortinger, who headed the delegation, told the group to start marching as soon as there was a break in the traffic.

"It was a balagan," she said, using a Yiddish word meaning fiasco.

Some locals got to strut their stuff. The Teaneck-based Torah Academy of Bergen County has marched for 16 years, and this year brought a contingent of ’30 students from grades nine through 1′, said Rabbi Yosef Adler, the principal. The Moriah School of Englewood had "about ’50" students from grades five through eight, said Rabbi Noam Weinberg, associate principal, and has marched "for as long as the parade has been around." The Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County in New Milford brought ’60 students from grades four through eight to the parade. The school has been represented in the march for more than 30 years, said Lymor Wasserman, the school’s spokesperson. "Israel is at the heart of the school," she added.

Ben Porat Yosef in Leonia marched, as did Yavneh Academy
in Paramus, Gerrard Berman Solomon Schechter Day School in Oakland, and Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey in River Edge. Yeshivat Noam of Bergenfield and Paramus marched after waiting half an hour, while the Frisch School of Paramus marched after waiting for two hours. Ma’aynot, a girls yeshiva high school in Teaneck, marched, but not until 5 p.m.

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