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Ayelet Raymond

One big family: Bringing back the hostages at the Israel Parade in New York

Family Mayerfeld, Leat Corinne
Family Mayerfeld, Leat Corinne Unger, marched in the Israel parade in New York with the Family Hostages Forum

Marching in the annual Israel parade on Fifth Avenue in New York has always filled me, as an Israeli, with pride.

This year, it felt like we were one big family, resonating with the theme “One People, One Heart,” where everyone chanted for the safe return of all the hostages.

As we celebrated Israel’s 76th birthday, among the 50,000 marchers supporters, more than 70 relatives of Israeli captives and Nova Festival survivors led the Parade, many of whom became my close friends.

During the march this year, the lively Israeli music was occasionally interrupted by children who seemed to be facing a new reality, while adults chanted for the return of hostages using a loudspeaker, repeating the three words “bring them home.”

The grand marshal, Harley Lippmann, opened the parade with a special tribute to Aviva Siegel, who was abducted from Kibbutz Kfar Aza by Hamas terrorists on October 7 and released after 51 days, while her husband Keith remains captive in Gaza.

Alongside the Family Hostages Forum, Leat Corinne Unger, the family of the hostage Omer Shem Tov, 31, who remains in Gaza captivity by Hamas, shared with me: “All we know is that he maintains faith and observes Kiddush every Shabbat with the little food he has. We are heartbreakingly praying for his return home.”

The popular Mayerfeld family from Kii New York, dedicated to encouraging Jewish connections to Judaism and Israel, marched proudly with their young children, embracing their life mission and ensuring their kids instill a real connection to Israel, understanding the complexities despite the tragedies of October 7.

“We, as Jews, are not torn apart, and we don’t hide anything from our children so they have a real connection to Israel now and when they grow up,” Mayerfeld shared.

This is a true inspiration to me and all of us: Being Jewish means connecting with each other through both successful and challenging times.

We all pray for the safe and swift return of the hostages.

About the Author
Ayelet Raymond is a film and musical director who lives in New York City. She collaborated with young Broadway performers to create the American children’s television show “My Hebrewland.” She is the creative force behind the Kosher Barbie character and social media personality @kosher_Barbie.