By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features
Tens of thousands of marchers and supporters turned New York City’s Fifth Avenue white and blue for this year’s Celebrate Israel Parade, the 55th annual parade which has become one of the biggest events in a city known for its fantastic parades and festivals. Among the dignitaries and elected officials who marched to show support was Governor Andrew Cuomo who used the occasion to denounce anti-Semitism and announce he will soon make a visit to Israel to show solidarity.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, who marched with his mother, Matilda, daughters Michaela and Cara, and administration officials, government leaders including State Senators Anna Kaplan and Brad Hoylman, and Assemblymember David Welprin and Council Member Ben Kallos, as well as the Israel General Consul Dani Dayan, noted his special guest, Devorah Halberstam, who runs the Jewish Children’s Museum. Halberstam started the museum in honor of her son Ari Halberstam who was killed in an anti-Semitic attack; this week, an anti-Semitic note was left there, “Hitler is Coming.”
“We are here to celebrate Israel,” Cuomo said. And it’s more appropriate than usual this year because the blunt truth is there has been an increase in the number of anti-Semitic attacks in this country and in this state. There’s been about a 57 percent increase in anti-Semitic attacks in the United States of America. People have heard about the Pittsburgh horrendous temple attack, in California. But a 57 percent increase. There’s been an 83 percent increase in anti-Semitic attacks in the State of New York, 83 percent increase all over the state – upstate, Long Island, Brooklyn. I just mentioned Devorah Halberstam’s most recent attack.”
Cuomo said the rise in bias and hate crimes was akin to a “cancer of the American body politic.”
“Cancer of the American body politic has been the new way. Cancer because one cell attacks another. When you have Jewish people being attacked, gays, members of the LGBTQ community being attacked, with anti-Semitic sayings just last night, anti-Muslim, anti-African-American. This is a cancer of hate that is all throughout our country and unfortunately even in our State of New York.
“There was a time when we could have political differences, but it didn’t turn into hate. We’ve always had political differences, back to our founding fathers we had political differences. But we tolerate them and we understand them. We can have political differences about Israel and Palestine, that’s what makes democracy that debate. But when did the strongest four letter word in America become hate instead of love? That’s what’s most troubling. And that is what is now going on. These anti-Semitic attacks are personal to the Cuomo family. We have many friends who we grew up with who are of the Jewish faith. I have two brothers in law who are Jewish, my mother has two sons in law, my daughters have two uncles – Howard and Ken – who are Jewish. These anti-Semitic attacks, the Cuomo family takes personally. Every family in New York takes personally.
“And I want the people of this state to be clear: anti-Semitism is not just wrong and immoral and unethical and anti-American; it is also illegal. And we will enforce the law to the fullest extent and you have my word on that.
“As a sign of solidarity, at this time of crisis for the Jewish people, I’m going to be doing another trip to Israel as a trip in solidarity right after the legislative session and I invite my Jewish colleagues to join us as a sign of solidarity. New York stands with Israel. We are all Jewish today. We all appreciate the Jewish community. They are part of what makes New York, New York and one of the best parts.”
Asked what is being done to combat the wave of anti-Semitism, Cuomo said, “We have increased the hate crime penalties all across the state. We are working on more understanding, more communication, but we’re also going to enforce the law because it has reached a critical point. Eighty-three percent increase in the state of New York. Twenty-two percent increase in neo-Nazi groups. And by the way, I invite all politicians to condemn the neo-Nazi groups for what they are. They are domestic terrorists. That’s what they are. And this is not part of the democracy. They spread hate, they spread violence, they attack and every politician—Democrat, Republican—should condemn these neo-Nazi groups and call them for what they are.”
Cuomo made his remarks just before starting the march, the gaggle collected on the street which turned out to be across from Trump Tower. When a reporter pointed that out, Cuomo said, “I didn’t even notice that until you mentioned it.”
Asked about the Pride flag that was burned at a downtown bar, Cuomo said, “Same thing. I call it a cancer that is spreading in this country. Why a cancer? Because cancer—one cell in the body attacks other cells and that’s what you’re seeing in this country right now. You’re seeing white versus black, Christian versus Muslim, anti-Semitism, anti-LGBTQ the other night. This is destroying America. Because America is diversity and once we start attacking each other for our diversity, that defeats America and who we are.
“We are a pluralistic society. Emma Lazarus, a great Jewish New Yorker who wrote the words for the Statue of Liberty. That’s the founding of this nation. George Washington visited a synagogue in Rhode Island and said, the Jewish people are here, free to celebrate their religion. It was freedom of religion. And now we are demonizing each other’s religious preferences? This is not America. This is not who we are. And we’re going to make the opposite statement in the state of New York. Let’s march, thank you.”
55th Celebrate Israel Parade
This year marks the 55th anniversary of what has become one of the largest events in New York City, known for mammoth parades and festivals, growing exponentially each year in attendance and excitement since its founding in 1965 by Ted Comet.
Some 40,000 marchers representing some 250 organizations from throughout the New York metro area, Connecticut, New Jersey, Philadelphia, dignitaries and musical guests, 30 floats, 15 marching bands including the famed Mummers from Philadelphia, groups of rollerbladers, motorcyclists, dance groups, juggling clowns, marched from 57th Street to 74th Street, with the theme, “Only in Israel,” to highlight the positive impact the Jewish and democratic state of Israel has on people in New York and around the world.
The Celebrate Israel Parade broadcast is sponsored by Friends of Maimonides Medical Center. Parade Co‐Chair Judy Kaufthal remarked, “The Celebrate Israel Parade is the world’s largest expression of support for solidarity. It’s breathtaking to see Fifth Avenue filled with people of all ages celebrating Israel and its culture.”
The Parade is produced by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC‐NY), in cooperation with UJA‐Federation of New York and the Consulate General of Israel in New York.
Michael Miller, Executive Vice President & CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC‐ NY) said, “The Celebrate Israel Parade acts as a convener each year for international communities to stand together to promote unity on a global scale,” Michael Miller, Executive Vice President & CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC‐ NY) said.
Edward A. Mermelstein, Founder and CEO of One & Only Realty and President of ZAKA, the Grand Marshall, said, “As an immigrant New Yorker and a proud Jew, walking up Fifth Avenue as the grand marshal of the Celebrate Israel Parade is the pinnacle of the American dream. I am so proud to stand with Israel.”
In addition to the Grand Marshal Edward A. Mermelstein, honorary Grand Marshals included:
- Ted Comet, Founder of the Celebrate Israel Parade
- Siggy Flicker, Author and TV Personality
- Sid Rosenberg, Co-Host of Bernie & Sid in the Morning
- Stephanie Butnick, Host of the Unorthodox Podcast
- Liel Leibovitz, Host of the Unorthodox Podcast
- Elizabeth Savetsky, @ExcessoriesExpert Instagram Influencer
Israeli Public Officials included: Consul General Dani Dayan; Deputy Consul General Israel Nitzan and Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon
American Public Officials included:
Andrew Cuomo, NYS Governor, Attorney General Letitia James and NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli
US Senator Charles Schumer
US Congress Members Eliot Engel, Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney
Bill de Blasio, NYC Mayor andCity Comptroller Scott Stringer
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams
Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez
NYS Assembly Speaker Felix W. Ortiz and NYS Assembly Members Steven Cymbrowitz, Nicole Malliotakis, Helene Weinstein
NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson and NYC Council Members Margaret Chin, Chaim Deutsch, Vanessa Gibson, Barry Grodenchik, Mark Levine, Mark Treyger, Eric Ulrich, Helen Rosenthal, Ben Kallos, Joseph Borelli, Andrew Cohen, Rafael Salamanca.
Here are more highlights from the Celebrate Israel Parade:
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