Much has been made of the controversy in recent weeks over which groups should and should not be participating in the 50th annual Celebrate Israel parade. It is set for Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine, up Fifth Avenue, from 57th Street to 74th Street.
Ted Comet, credited as the founder of the parade and who, having just turned 90, will be a proud marshal this year, reminds us that the event has always had its share of challenges. (See story on page 3.) In the early 1960s, when he proposed a grand event commensurate with the size of the New York Jewish population, traditionalists said a parade was not sufficiently dignified; others were not interested in coming out to show their support for the young Jewish state.
He persisted, though, recruiting school kids and youth groups and bringing in marching bands, primarily from Catholic schools. The first parade, in 1965, was a modest event, a five-block march. It was the ’67 event, at a moment when Israel was under imminent threat of war from Egyptian President Sadat and his fellow Arab leaders, that ensured the continuity of the annual manifestation of our love of Zion. The program became a solidarity demonstration and 250,000 people turned out. The Six-Day War began a week later.
There were various issues that divided the community, and the parade, over the years. And we have not improved our track record significantly in the last five decades in terms of getting along with fellow Jews with whom we disagree. Indeed, that statement could apply to the last several thousand years. For some it is a badge of honor — two Jews, three opinions, etc. For others it is a sad testimony to our stubborn, often self-defeating ways.
We are not naïve enough to suggest that the ongoing discussion-debate that in some ways defines us should come to a halt. But we are urging each of our readers to put aside their gripes for a day and show their concern and affection for Israel by coming out to the parade on Sunday.
You can go back to squabbling — respectfully, of course — on Monday. But for just one day let’s walk in step with our brothers and sisters in Israel.