By Mary Beth Lorber
“You want me to what?” This was how it started. I was speaking on the phone with my friend a few weeks ago and she was inviting me to march in the Israel Day Parade.
Please let me offer a little background here. My friend is Dassy Ganz, assistant director of the Jewish Federation of Northeastern PA. She was coordinating this year’s trip to the parade. She was speaking to me about things like showing our support of Israel, highlighting the families from our community who have made aliyah (moved to Israel), and the experience of uniting with Jews from all over the world for a common purpose.
My thoughts in response were much less majestic.
“She has got to be kidding” was my first thought. After all, this meant I was going to be giving up my normal Sunday plans to ride a bus from Scranton, PA back and forth to NYC where my sole function was going to be marching in the hot sun carrying a flag or banner (not even a Starbucks Frappachino). But my second thought, gratefully, was less selfish and I remembered what a good friend Dassy was and that I had no real excuse so I said “Yes, my husband and I will both be glad to come”. Well, Sunday morning dawned and my husband had come down with a real winner of a cold and I was thinking that the day was off to an inauspicious start. I then went in to wake my teenage daughter to see if she would like to accompany me and was expecting the usual whiny teenage “Why me?” or “Do I have to?” reply when I was surprised by a happy and excited “That sounds like fun”. So, with one of us excited, my teenager and I boarded the bus to NYC.
From the moment our trip began my feelings changed. First, I looked around me on the bus and noticed the diversity of our Jewish, non-Jewish, religious, secular, black, white, young, old, male/ female group. Then I began to hear the individual stories. There was Gene Schneider from Congregation B’nai Harim who had brought his young Bar Mitzvah student, Matthew Holtzman, on the trip to further his Jewish education by uniting with Jews from other communities. Next I was honored to speak with Martin Weiss, a World War II veteran who proudly wore his uniform hat reflecting service in both the United States Navy and Army. I overheard Dr. Joel and Leah Laury of Scranton invite Eric Birnbaum of Stroudsburg for an upcoming Shabbat. That was when the beauty of the Israel Day Parade struck me. It was the banners.
Each of the people that I spoke with that day had a unique reason for being there and a contribution to make to the whole. Each person had a banner to carry in life. But, for one day, we were all united under one banner, our support for the state of Israel. Our group wore matching T-shirts as we marched down Fifth Avenue together. These T-shirts showed the mission or banner of our local Federation, “NEPA branches take root in Israel”. Behind us marched a very enthusiastic school from Los Angeles and their T-shirts reflected their mission and banner. This same scene was repeated many times over by different school, Federation and organizational groups. Some groups had floats. Some had music and dancing. Each had its own banner or way of getting its unique mission across and yet each united for that day under the one banner: Support Israel. That unity inspired me.
We have all heard the old joke; with two Jews you get three opinions. This reflects our ability to have healthy discourse and dissent on any topic. However, the Israel Day Parade reflects that on the issue of a state of Israel there is no valid dissenting opinion. That was the banner under which we all marched at the Israel Day Parade. I was proud to be a part of that.