A first- time never –to- forget experience
By: Becky Schastey
The Day of The Israel Parade began as any other June morning in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The sky was overcast and the air was a bit chilled. We gathered our belongings for the day and got on the bus. The bus pulled out of Scranton on our way to the Poconos to pick up another group.
As we arrive, the excitement builds a bit more. The other group joins us bringing the total to 36 a mix of seniors, adults and children, old friends and new friends all with the common focus- The Land of Israel Forever Ours. Pulling out of the Poconos, the sun begins to shine and everyone settles in for the ride ahead.
Shortly before entering into the Lincoln Tunnel, Mark Silverberg, executive director of the Jewish Federation, addresses the group reminding us that we are family and recounting two beautiful stories about how this day is about Eretz Yisrael and our support of its existence. We can have fun but don’t forget why we have come. His words are taken to heart and draw tears to many a person’s eyes.
As we pull out of the Lincoln Tunnel, the excitement mounts. The tall buildings, the rush and energy of the city flows over each of us. Some people on the bus have not been to NYC in over 30 years, others have never been there. The bus pulls over and lets us out as Dassy Ganz leads us to our destination – Fifth Avenue, the venue for the Parade. We are marching early this year, among the first groups and we are amazed at the organization necessary to pull an event of this magnitude together
During this time, I learn about the diversity of our group of marchers. There are converts, “baaeil teshuva”- the newly observant. There are those who are affiliated with Orthodox Judaism, Conservative Judaism and Reform Judaism. We are united by our love and commitment to the Land and people of Israel.
Dan Cardonik, executive director of the Scranton JCC, took the lead with his trusty whistle so that our banner, “The Jewish Federation is Instrumental in Saving Lives in Israel” was visible along side the JCC and Federation banners. Our concept celebrating the ambulance the Federation purchased for Israel’s Magen David Adom got strangers commenting on what a special gift that was. That whistle kept us on our toes as our gazes kept wandering to the growing multitudes of Jews and Jewish supporters who were lining the streets in anticipation of the Parade. I have never seen so many Jews in one place.
The time finally comes for us to take our march down 5th Avenue from 54th to 74th Street. The crowds are cheering, the sides are jammed packed with spectators, and music blares in front of us and behind us. Cameras are everywhere as we wave our hands and flags to everyone we pass by.
Internally, I am thinking about last month’s comment made by President Obama on the 1967 lines, the current uproars in the Middle East and suddenly, those thoughts fade away as I watch the unity of the Jewish people and the love for our ancestral homeland. I silently pray for the day of true peace in Israel and the days of all Jews coming home.
After the Parade, we continued to Teaneck, N.J. where our group split up to enjoy any of a number of kosher restaurants, shops and Judaica stores. All agreed it was a wonderful and Jewishly meaningful day.
Thank you to Mark and Dassy for organizing this exciting event for my family and the other marchers as well.
Am Yisrael Chai!