Jonathan Muskat

The Value of the Celebrate Israel Parade – Good Vibes!

This coming Sunday, I will march with my school at the Celebrate Israel Parade in Manhattan. This is probably the world’s largest expression of solidarity with the Jewish state outside the state of Israel. Tens of thousands of people march each and every year with perhaps hundreds of thousands of spectators. But sometimes I wonder, what’s the real point of this march? Is it really important and necessary?

We who march or attend the parade have not chosen to make aliya. We remain bystanders to the destiny of our people by living in the diaspora as our beloved start-up nation marches towards redemption. But we try to do what we can to support the State of Israel even while living in the diaspora. So we march in the parade. On one level, marching in the Celebrate Israel Parade seems to be like eating blue and white cookies on Yom Ha-Atzma-ut. It’s a show of support for Israel, but it seems like a rather shallow show of support.

What would I consider a strong show of support for the State of Israel, short of making aliya? Political advocacy for pro-Israel candidates and pro-Israel policies. Calling out antisemitism and antizionism publicly on social media. I would even argue that taking a deep-dive to study and appreciate the philosophy and ideology of religious Zionism and how a return to Zion impacts our lives as Jews is a strong expression of support for the State of Israel from a religious perspective. But marching in the Celebrate Israel Parade waving our Israeli flags? What does that really accomplish?

Our community had the absolute privilege to host Rabbi Dr. Ari Lamm as a scholar-in-residence for Shavuot. He is a leading Jewish intellectual and is the co-founder and president of SoulShop Studios, a new media venture for faith-driven Gen Z audiences, and Chief Executive of the Bnai Zion Foundation. During one Yom Tov dinner that I shared with him, he told me that when he was studying for his PhD in Religion at Princeton University, an anti-Zionist speaker was scheduled to speak to the students. Rabbi Lamm planned to attend and publicly debate this speaker. But then when he arrived at the lecture and the speaker began his remarks, Rabbi Lamm noticed that the entire audience wasn’t really listening to his arguments. They were all on their smartphones. At that moment, Rabbi Lamm had an epiphany. We Jews are very much moved by knowledge. We want to prove the legitimacy of the State of Israel and the beauty of Judaism to the world through rational arguments. However, in reality, what motivates most young people these days are not persuasive arguments. What motivates most young people these days are “good vibes.” A young American’s perception of the State of Israel will be impacted not as much by the persuasiveness of our arguments as they will be impacted by our presentation of Israel as a cool place and a winning country. Indeed, a lot of his work is to try to encourage pop culture celebrities to post cool pro-Israel messages and videos on social media so that millions of their followers will think that Israel is cool. His organization creates “good vibes” for the State of Israel.

In that light, I think that the Celebrate Israel Parade serves an important role in our support for the State of Israel. It is a light, fun event. It is about singing, dancing and marching and having a great time around one concept: the State of Israel. It’s about broadcasting “good vibes” for our beloved, historic homeland to the rest of our country. That’s something we all should do… while having fun!

About the Author
Jonathan Muskat is the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Oceanside.
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