Anyone who thinks that large numbers of young American Jews aren’t committed to the state of Israel should have been at the Celebrate Israel parade in Manhattan Sunday.
Some 35,000 people, a widely agreed-upon estimate, marched up Fifth Avenue—and most of them were young persons. They were highly enthusiastic and wearing bright- colored T-shirts emblazoned with “Celebrate Israel.” A million people was the estimate of spectators lining the parade route from 57th to 74th Street, and many of them were young, too.
There have been a few making claims in recent times, notably writer Peter Beinart, that there has been an alienation between Israel and young American Jews. That’s a key assertion of Beinart’s book of last year, The Crisis of Zionism.
You wouldn’t know that from the huge number of young American Jews celebrating Israel Sunday—with zest, passion and commitment.
In the delegation from Long Island synagogues in which I marched there was, for example, Hannah Faiguenbaum, 21, of Huntington. She went to Israel through the Birthright program last summer and is “very active in Jewish community affairs.” At Boston Universwity, from which she just graduated with a degree in elementary education, she was a member of Hillel and joined Hillel and Boston University Students for Israel in countering Pro-Palestinian protests.
There were the 17-year-old twins Danielle and Nicole Poliak of Huntington. Danielle said that central in “my love for Israel” was a trip she took with her family to Israel led by the rabbi of their synagogue, Temple Beth Torah of Melville.
With Danielle and Nicole marching was their mother, Merrill, who spoke about the “importance of fostering love for Israel through the family as well as the synagogue.”
The leader of that trip to Israel which included the Poliak family was Rabbi Susie Heneson Moskowitz of Temple Beth Torah, who was also there marching. Rabbi Moskowitz spoke of the “vibrancy” of the parade and also happily noted the “great number of young people.”
For Laila Garcia, 17, of Water Mill, attendance at Union for Reform Judaism camps—Eisner in Great Barrington, Massachusetts and Kutz in Warwick, New York—and involvement at them and since with the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NIFTY) has been central to her involvement with Israel. “Israel means a lot to me. It’s a big part of my life,” she said. She is active in a youth group co-sponsored by Temple Adas Israel of Sag Harbor and the Jewish Center of the Hamptons in East Hampton. “I’ll be 18 next year and I will be able to apply to Birthright,” she noted, and go to Israel “where we have cousins.” She is, meanwhile, seeking a college that offers Judaic Studies. Laila described as “cool” seeing “so, so many kids” in the Celebrate Israel parade.
Jessica Tintweiss, 17, of Dix Hills has been to Israel twice. Her mother was born there. Her father, Michael, is on the board at Temple Beth Torah “and I’m on the board of the youth group” at the synagogue. She also has attended Camp Eisner and has been involved in—and found great importance—in NIFTY activities. “I have a passion for Judaism and Israel,” said Jessica, who plans to study to be a veterinarian.
You need not take my word for there being an overwhelming number of young people involved in the Celebrate Israel parade. New York’s WWOR-TV is replaying on the Internet—at http://celebrateisraelny.org/brdcst.html—its broadcast of the parade. Take a look at it.
There were also 17 bands which took part and 30 floats—and also a flock of New York area politicians marching, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor Andrew Cuomo, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer and this year’s New York mayoral hopefuls. From Israel and marching were several officials including Dov Lipman, a member of the Knesset who was born in the U.S.
Ellen Price Ruby, among those marchers from Temple Adas Israel, commented on the “positive nature of it all—including the spirit of the bystanders. The whole thing was so positive,” said the psychotherapist. “Everybody was so supportive and cheering. I saw only happy faces.”
That so many were young American Jewish faces bodes well for Israel and the future of Zionism.