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The Israel Parade Again

The Israel Parade Again

Associate Editor

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

The Salute To Israel Parade is back in town this Sunday, and it’s terrific in a multitude of ways, which begs the question: Why does just about every Jewish day school lack confidence in the appeal of this parade, so much so that have to make attendance at the parade “mandatory”?

Kids naturally love parades, and most yeshiva kids love Israel, so why is everyone so sure kids won’t come to this parade without a whip and chair?

It’s not all that different from rabbis deciding, like some Captain Von Trapp, that the shofar won’t blow on Yom Kippur because it is mandatory that congregants stay for Ma’ariv. As if we wouldn’t. As if it matters if anyone leaves.

As if it matters that 50 less kids will march in many of the groups. So the parade will last five hours instead of seven. I got news for you, the coverage on the evening news and in the morning paper won’t be any different. No one will write that the Yeshiva of Pottersville had 90 kids marching and last year they had 112.

Why do organizers and principals treat this parade like Nurse Ratched running a group therapy session in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” something schoolmarmish, medicinal and hygienic? A parade has to be organized, sure, but where’s the room for the spontaneous joy one can see, say, at the West Indian parade on Eastern Parkway? Why are we the only ethnic group that treats this parade like a school assembly?

If it is so “important” for Jews to attend this parade, why do organizers insist the parade be at the one place in Manhattan – Fifth Avenue, between 59th street and 79th street — where there is no affordable parking and no subways? The parade used to be on Riverside Drive, one block from the West Side Highway, the Broadway local and express, and dozens of places to eat, drink and take a break. But Riverside Drive or any other address is not slick enough for the parade organizers who care more about a slicker zip code than getting and keeping a crowd. Why not revolve this parade through different Jewish neighborhoods and counties?

If “a million people” show up, as the organizers often claim, that would mean each of the 20 blocks of the parade route must average the attendance at a Yankees game – 50,000 people. That’s right, a million people means a full Yankee Stadium on each block. If you believe that…

Be honest. How many of you who are going to the parade plan to leave immediately after seeing your kid’s school go by and then picking up your kid? People don’t bail out early on the Thanksgiving Day parade or a Fourth of July parade. But people leave as soon as they can from the Israel parade because remaining at the parade after your kid’s school goes by can feel like standing in the back of an auditorium for an assembly in a school your kid doesn’t go to. Albeit with more balloons.

Some people leave early just to beat the extortionist parking rates, or the logistical nightmare of getting out of that neighborhood.

The parade is good for seeing some old friends. I’ll give it that.

I know too many people who have the attitude that once their kids are no longer marching, once it is no longer mandatory, they won’t go. Why do you think that is, Nurse Ratched? I’ll give you a clue. A parade is supposed to be fun. A parade is supposed to be like the circus coming to town. When you take attendance, when you scold people that it is “mandatory,” the natural response is that people don’t want to do it the minute they no longer must.

If you treat the parade not like homework but like “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” you’ll have all the crowds you ever dreamed of, singing “Twist and Shout” to a pretty little country that just turned 60, and to a pretty good looking crowd along the sidewalks, too.

I think I saw you at the parade. You know you look so good (look so good).

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