Series Of Firsts Mark ‘Celebrate Israel’ Parade


Sunday’s Celebrate Israel Parade will not only march up Fifth Avenue, but into the living rooms of thousands of area homes

For the first time in its more than 40-year history, the march will be televised live. WWOR-TV Channel 9, which is owned by Fox Television Stations, is slated to carry the parade from noon until 2 p.m. on June 5.

The possibility of televising the parade on a broadcast channel has been explored in previous years, according to Zev Brenner, president and executive producer of the Talkline Communications Network.

“A couple of years ago we tried to bring it to Channel 9,” he said. “It had nothing to do with Fox’s political orientation; they just gave us a better price than Channel 4.”

But it did not happen because the cost at that time was prohibitive, Brenner said.

He noted that the parade has been seen on cable stations, most recently on Shalom TV. And in 2001, he arranged for Time Warner Cable and National Jewish Television to carry the parade live for three hours.

“The beauty is that you reach people who were not going to the parade,” Brenner said. “Even people who are not Jewish told me they loved watching the parade. It creates lots of goodwill for Israel.”

The decision to have the parade carried by one of the two Fox broadcast channels in New York — the other is Channel 5 — has nothing to do with Fox’s pro-Israel stance, according to parade organizers.

“It’s economics,” insisted Michael Miller, executive vice president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, the parade sponsor.

He declined to say how much the telecast would cost, but he said the JCRC was still raising money for both the parade and the broadcast.

“We’re looking for sponsors,” Miller said, noting that sponsors’ names would be mentioned on the telecast.

Asked about concerns that the broadcast might prompt people to stay home and watch on TV rather than from the sidelines, he noted that a “lot of ethnic parades are televised, and I can tell you it only enhances the parade. If you are pro-Israel, you make a statement by going. And it’s a wonderful thing for the elderly and those who are ill and can’t go to be able to watch it on television.”

The broadcast will be co-hosted by Fox reporter John Huddy and Israeli actress and model Becky Griffin. The grand marshall of the parade is Joseph Sitt, CEO of Thor Equities, the company that is redeveloping the Coney Island Waterfront area.

This is the first year the parade, which has been an annual fixture here for more than 40 years, will be closely coordinated with the government of Israel. As a result, one of the guest commentators on the telecast will be the Muppet character Grover from the “Shalom Sesame,” Israel’s adaptation of “Sesame Street.” The other parade hosts are yet to be announced.

In addition, the popular Israeli rock band Beit Habubot will be featured performers in the parade.

Plans are still being made to carry the parade live on the Internet, possibly using an Israeli website, according to Peter Kohlmann, the parade’s executive producer.

He said the JCRC is hiring the producer and director for the broadcast, and that they in turn rent the equipment. Six cameras will be used and the JCRC “will be producing the program in-house with our own production team. …The important message of the parade gets spread from Fifth Avenue to the airwaves and that is important.”

The parade will feature more than 30,000 marchers from 107 groups and more than 40 bands and floats, Kohlmann noted. For the first time, representatives of the Russian-speaking Jewish community will march together. More than 1,000 are expected. Among them will be former Golden Gloves champion Dimitriy Salita, Bukharian and Kavkazian dancers (from Georgia), the Brighton Beach Ballet, and Yakov Yavno, a well-known Russian singer and who will perform on the float of UJA-Federation of New York.

In another first, a four-mile run through Central Park by an anticipated 5,000 runners is to take place at 9 a.m. on the morning of the parade. The JCRC in conjunction with UJA-Federation of New York and the New York Road Runners are the sponsors.

At the end of the run there will be “Israeli music, snacks and a festival as a prelude to the parade,” Miller said.

An earlier version of this story was posted on The Jewish Week website recently.