25 Special Teens Hear All About Israel on Board Ship Representing Israel at Salute to Liberty Festiv
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25 Special Teens Hear All About Israel on Board Ship Representing Israel at Salute to Liberty Festiv

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Swept into the continuing Salute to Liberty fanfare and celebration, a group of some 25 special teenagers set sail Tuesday around the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor on the Israeli owned ship, Galaxy.

The sail, hosted by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of New York and the Consulate General of Israel, allowed youths of all races and religions from the Hawthorne Cedar Knolls School in Westchester, a non-sectarian treatment center for special children, to hear a bit about Israel while soaking in the sun and view of Manhattan.

“We thought that it was important to reach out to some special children and to let them participate in the Liberty Festival while learning some history and culture about Israel,” said Lester Pollack, president of the JCRC.


The teenagers who are now living at the Hawthorne residential facility, a division of the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, listened to Chagai Shmueli, a teacher at Israel of Hatzofim, the Israel Scout Movement, compare the immigrant spirit in America with that in Israel.

“People persecuted came to America… similar things happened in Israel,” Shmueli explained. “Jewish people looking for a place of independence came to Israel.”

This field trip was special for many of the children, including Ricky Vellutri, an 11-year-old from Staten Island now living at Hawthorne. “We don’t usually go on big trips,” said Vellutri. “It was nice to have a close up view of the statue. It’s a symbol of freedom in America.”

Seeing the Statue triggered a similar reaction in Ari Shallit, 14, who is an Israeli in the senior unit of Hawthorne. “It brings out a patriotic spirit in me,” said Shallit. “But how I feel about Israel you can’t compare. I feel much more patriotic toward Israel.” According to Shmueli, by Israel participating in America’s Salute to Liberty, the Jewish State is saying “we are here with her. We are identifying with America.”


The brigantine Galaxy, now docked at Pier 15 at the South Street Seaport, will be flying the national Israeli flag in Operation Sail and will be in the twelfth position in the Salute to Liberty Parade up the Hudson River.

Originally a Portuguese fishing boat, the Galaxy was refurbished five years ago. The 125 feet of luxuries African hardwood includes a main salon and lounge, library, cocktail bar, five staterooms and expansive deck space.

While the Galaxy’s home port is in Eilat, on the Red Sea, the captain Uri Paron, and crew left Haifa 2 1/2 years ago and have been sailing since. After crossing the Atlantic, which according to the Galaxy’s first mate Adrian Fieldhouse, took 18 days, they have docked at Norfolk, Baltimore and now New York.

Both the JCRC, the Consulate General of Israel and Israel’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations have been hosting a number of diplomatic, educational and social events aboard the Galaxy. The ship will travel to several New England ports and will return here in late August, said Fieldhouse. Also commemorating the Liberty Weekend, the National Park Service is hosting a display of historical documents significant to Jewish people throughout the world, including the official facsimile of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, “Megilat Ha’atzmaut.”

The Declaration, produced in 1958 to celebrate Israel’s 10th anniversary, will be exhibited at the Federal Hall National Memorial here through July 9 along with the silver container for the original Declaration, and the 1948 letter from President Truman recognizing the State of Israel.

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