Gary Rosenblatt, in his usual, reflective and self-critical style, (“Raining on the Parade”, June 8) questioned the continued value of the Celebrate Israel parade and the $1 million spent by the community to make it possible. As I march up Fifth Avenue year after year with my Ramaz students, my tired, aching and aging feet give me ample reason to agree with him. But I don’t. Here are the reasons:
First, children need moments to identify with Jewish ideals, causes and heroes. A big public rally creates such an opportunity. We had those rallies in the past: for Israel; for Soviet Jewry; for Natan Sharansky; and, recently, for Gilad Shalit. Thank God, we don’t have such a cause right now. The Celebrate Israel parade creates such a cause. It is an opportunity for kids to identify with the central focus of the Jewish people today: the People and State of Israel. It is a Godsend for us and for our children.
Second, it is an opportunity to stand up publicly and proudly as Jews, something that we were not always able to do. When I grew up, I never identified publicly as a Jew. I carried my Jewish textbooks with the front cover against my chest. It was frightening in the ‘30s and ‘40s to be a Jew publicly. It is a blessing for our kids to be able to walk up Fifth Avenue with their kippot, with Israel flags, and with T-shirts proclaiming their loyalty to Israel and the Jewish people. There is more Jewish education going on during that hour’s march up Fifth Avenue than in many hours in the best classrooms of the best schools.
Finally, the Celebrate Israel parade is an opportunity for all of us to recognize that we live in a land where such public displays of Jewish loyalty are not only encouraged, but are safe. I am not sure that the same kind of parade could be held today, safely, in England or France. Thank God, in America, we can stand up as exclamation points, in public, with loud declarations of our Jewish loyalties and with gratitude for the freedom and opportunity with which we are blessed in this land.
For these reasons, among others, I hope to be able to continue to march with our students, creating our own Canyon of Heroes, flanked on both sides by cheering crowds who appreciate the educational, Jewish and American value of this parade.
Rabbi, Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun Principal, Ramaz School, Manhattan