Shoulder to shoulder with Israel
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Shoulder to shoulder with Israel

Teen-originated march and rally draws thousands

Thousands gathered in Teaneck’s Sagamore Park for a post-parade concert. (Photos courtesy of Bergen County Unite for Israel.)
Thousands gathered in Teaneck’s Sagamore Park for a post-parade concert. (Photos courtesy of Bergen County Unite for Israel.)

It was a protest. It was a parade. It was a party.

On Sunday, thousands of supporters of Israel took to the streets and parks of Teaneck to show that support.

They had a very good time.

They gathered in one park, walked as a group up Teaneck’s central Cedar Lane, which was closed off by the large contingent of security-conscious police, and ended up in another park.

Along the way they passed protesters — a small group of Neturei Karta, a larger group waving Palestinian flags — and were cheered on by the energetic enthusiasm of Netanel Katz, an eighth grader at Yeshivat Noam in Paramus, who was decked out in the comical top hat of a vaudeville performer. Netanel bills himself as a bar mitzvah motivator.

They heard speeches — none too long — from public officials, and danced to the music of singer Benny Friedman.

Benny Friedman in performance

The Bergen County Unite for Israel Parade was sponsored by the official Jewish community — the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, the North Jersey Board of Rabis, the Rabbinical Council of Bergen County — as well as by a long list of Teaneck merchants — but it was the idea of Allie Orgen, a 19-year-old Teaneck native spending the year studying in a yeshiva in the stone streets of Jerusalem’s Old City. She’s living half a world away from sun-dappled, verdant Teaneck, but in a world of constant connection, not at all removed from it.

The idea for the parade came over Shavuot. It followed weeks of tension in both countries. “There was a lot happening at the same time,” Allie said.

There was the Hamas rocket attack on Jerusalem during the Jerusalem Day parade through the Old City. She and her fellow marchers had to lie down on the street as the warning siren went off, “since there were too many people to go into a shelter,” she said.

Then came the debate over an official Teaneck Israeli flag-raising ceremony. This wasn’t an abstract debate; Allie’s mother, Karen Orgen, is a member of the Teaneck council.

Then came the large pro-Palestinian demonstration in Teaneck’s municipal green on Shabbat.

Over Shavuot, Allie came to a decision.

Congressman Josh Gottheimer and three younger Israel supporters

After the holiday ended in America, she told her mother and her father, Eric: “I’m throwing a parade. I want to move the Israel day parade to Teaneck.”

(Her parents had news of their own for her: On vacation in Florida, they had been assaulted by anti-Semites.)

The senior Ms. Orgen put together a committee of adults, who brought on board other supporters.

Netanel Katz rouses the crowd.

And Allie organized the younger generation.

As a high school senior, she had been president of the Israel advocacy group at the Frisch School in Paramus. “I got together a group of all the former presidents of the Israel advocacy clubs who are in Israel this year,” she said. They formed a WhatsApp group, which soon attracted 150 Bergen County high schoolers.

These teens went door-to-door in Teaneck, giving local businesses flyers promoting the parade and soliciting donations. High schoolers ran the social media accounts and were recruited to hand out flags and water bottles at the parade.

The message Allie wanted to convey: “We’re proud to be Jewish. We’re proud to stand up for Israel. We’re not going to yell about it — instead we’ll have a concert and a parade.”

“It’s incredible how many people rallied to pull this together,” she said. “I’m so happy the community was able to pull it together, because it was very needed.”

Allie watched the parade from Jerusalem.

“It was incredible seeing so many showing how proud they are to be Jewish and proud to be unapologetically pro-Israel,” she said.

Allie’s mother spoke briefly before the concert, as did the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, Jason Shames.

So did Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-Dist. 5), who became the highest-ranking public official to address the various pro-Israel rallies in North Jersey in recent weeks.

“We’re here for a very simple reason,” Mr. Gottheimer said. “We stand with our historic ally, Israel. Now more than ever it is so important — after the Hamas terrorist group fired more than 4,500 rockets aimed at Israeli civilians.

“We thank God each day for Iron Dome, which intercepted more than 90 percent of those rockets and saved countless lives.

“We’re here because we know Hamas is a terrorist organization that is dedicated to the destruction of Israel, and we also know Israel is our key ally in the region, our fighter for democracy, who stands up for our values and American national security.

The parade on the march

“Nothing justifies a terrorist organization firing rockets at our ally. No one should make an excuse. Not a single excuse. And anyone who says Israel is a terrorist state, or an apartheid state — that’s anti-Semitism.

“I’m very proud to stand with the majority in Congress, Democrats and Republicans, including this administration, who remain clear that our commitment to Israel is ironclad,” Mr. Gottheimer continued. “This week 56 of us in Congress stood together and said we need urgent more support for Israel, more resources for Iron Dome.” He was talking about a letter calling on Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, which he organized, to “expeditiously” fulfill any Israeli request for additional military assistance and to assess “the need for Iron Dome replenishment.”

“We must stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel and all our allies, to make sure our relationship with Israel remains bipartisan and historic,” Mr. Gottheimer said.

“Finally, let me say, whether it is here in Teaneck or anywhere in New Jersey or the United States or around the world, we must stand strong against anti-Semitism. We must always speak up and stand with Israel and never back down, whether that’s a fight against the BDS movement, Iran, or the biased United Nations. We will stand strong together, the United States and Israel, because we live in the greatest country in the world and we want to stand by those who live up to our values, and that’s Israel.

“As long as I’m in Congress, I’ll never stop fighting for you or for the relationship.”

And then Benny Friedman led the assembled in the Star Spangled Banner and Hatikvah, and then the concert and the party began.

 

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