Thinking About Israel When We Can’t Visit: The Amazing But Not Well-Publicized Virtual Celebrate Israel Parade

It had all of the elements of a perfect Celebrate Israel Parade including happy children singing Hebrew songs and waving Israeli flags, politicians saying wonderful things about Israel, celebrities performing, and great visuals.  It was a well-coordinated, perfectly choreographed parade on a sunny Sunday in June.  And it was a great way to share good feelings about Israel.  There was only one problem—very few people knew about it.

The 2020 Virtual Celebrate Israel Parade took place in New York City at 1 pm on June 21st and was an action packed one hour celebration, with accompanying hashtags:  #CelebrateIsrael #TodahFrontlineHeroes #TogetherAtHome.

The theme of the parade, quite appropriately, was “Todah,” which, as most of us, including 3 time New York Mets and Yankees All Star outfielder Curtis Granderson knows, means “thank you.”  He was one of many New York athletes, musicians and politicians to pay tribute to Israel, and to thank all frontline workers—paramedics, restaurant, workers, car drivers, sanitation workers, deliver and grocery workers, etc. Granderson joked that he was going to try a little Hebrew and said, “Todah.” 

The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York reported in a press release that they were going to postpone the parade, originally set for June 7, “in recognition of the protests occurring across the country and in memoriam of George Floyd and the many other victims of racism and hate in America” and that a Zoom gathering would “provide an opportunity for Jews and non-Jews alike to hear messages from prominent Black community leaders in New York.”

I vaguely remember seeing an email about the event, but I do not recall seeing or hearing the usual hype and excitement for the Celebrate Israel Parade.  Too bad.  When I got around to watching it on YouTube on Monday, it was AMAZING—though it only had 979 views.

Israel’s President Rivlin talks about “celebrating friendship and solidarity between Israel and New York,” there are moving renditions of Hatikvah and the Star Spangled Banner, and Governor Cuomo spoke about Israel as “Our great partner and friend with an unbreakable bond”

There was great entertainment by the Ramaz Chamber Choir (singing Shira Chadasha), David Broza (singing Yihiyeh Tov), and Soul Farm, Moshav Band, and Neshama Carlebach.

Well known athletes who “stopped by” included Pete Alonso, New York Mets First Baseman and 2019 All Star.  He praised front line workers in the US and Israel and joked, “If you are not a Mets fans, switch over!”  TIki Barber, the 3-time Pro Bowler New York Giants spoke of going to Israel twice–once as the guest of Shimon Peres and once to run the Jerusalem Marathon. He noted that he was her “to celebrate the courage and selflessness of frontline workers in the US, Israel and across the country.”  Omri Casspi the former NBA player and current Maccabi Tel Aviv player, stopped by as well.

Other politicians and dignitaries on hand included New York Mayor De Blasio, Israel’s Consul General Hon. Dani Dayan, and Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN.  And it wouldn’t be a parade without Dr. Ruth stopping by!



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