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Long Island Jews step forward to save Salute to Israel parade

New York Jewish Week
NEW YORK, April 9 (JTA) — Gather up those flags and banners — the Salute to Israel parade is back, set for Sunday, June 1. The annual Fifth Avenue march in New York, plagued by political controversy and financial problems in recent years, has been rescued by a group of Long Island benefactors, marking a shift from the parade’s traditional five-borough’s orientation. Previous sponsors of the event have declined to participate, and the 1995 demise of the usual sponsor, the American Zionist Youth Foundation, was presumed to be its death knell. The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York stepped in last year to salvage the event, and played a key brokering role in recent weeks. The new sponsor is the Israel Tribute Committee, an organization coordinated by the JCRC and Board of Jewish Education. Much credit for rescuing the event goes to the North Shore Hebrew Academy in Great Neck, whose vice presidents, Ivan Kaufman and Arthur Luxenberg, put up the funds, together with Luxenberg’s law partner, Perry Weitz, and an anonymous donor. The parade is believed to cost about $300,000. “We were alarmed when we heard it was being canceled,” said William Helmreich, president of the academy, who was approached by Michael Miller, executive director of the JCRC. “Here we are at the 100th anniversary of Zionism and a parade that is 32 years old may not come to pass,” Helmreich said. This year’s event will commemorate the centennial of modern Zionism and the 30th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification. Real estate executive Sam Domb, who had raised much of the funds in recent years, has ended his association with the parade, claiming that it became too politicized, with pressure to exclude opponents of the Israeli- Palestinian peace accords. Helmreich said the benefactors’ intention was to make the parade inclusive of all segments of the Jewish community. “We want to get as broad a spectrum as possible,” he said. Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, leader of the gay and lesbian synagogue, whose request for inclusion in the parade caused a furor in 1993 and 1994, said her group had not yet made a decision about whether to march. Under parade guidelines, only youth-oriented groups can participate. In 1995 and 1996, Kleinbaum’s Congregation Beth Simchat Torah marched under the banner of the Association of Reform Zionists of America.