Photo Credit: Richard Levine/Alamy
Participants in a previous year’s parade.

When we lived in New York, my husband and I often debated the propriety of PDJs – public displays of Judaism. This was long before “From the river to the sea,” “Long live the intifada!” and wearing a Magen David on a chain as an act of courage.

I believed that Jews in the Diaspora, exceedingly productive members of society, could exercise their religious freedom openly without apology – though necessarily with due decorum and careful avoidance of chillul Hashem. My husband felt that conspicuous, in-your-face Jewish peoplehood could lead only to no good, fueling the antisemitism that is always simmering beneath the surface, much as too many Jews prefer to pretend otherwise.


As plans for this year’s Celebrate Israel Parade up Fifth Avenue moved full steam ahead despite the challenges – that is, the explosion of open Jew-hatred across New York City and the world – I’ve found myself thinking about this dilemma. For years, I proudly attended the parade, first as a child with my parents, later as a student marching with my high school, and later still with my children, hoping to inspire them with Jewish unity on a grand scale and a surge of love for Israel.

My husband stayed at home. What does the parade accomplish?, he asked. It’s just a show. If you want to help Israel, move there. (Baruch Hashem, we did.)

Whether or not it mattered in the past, what does the Celebrate Israel Parade mean now, post-October 7?

Does it send the message: “We’re here, we’re proud, get over it,” letting the haters know that Jews are not going to hide or cower or stand by silently while the Jewish State is defamed? Is it a show of clout, to remind politicians and power brokers that the Jewish vote still holds weight? Is it a healing exercise, a coming together where beleaguered Zionists can feel part of a bold and beautiful tapestry? Or simply a (wholly symbolic) demonstration of support for Israel as she battles on, increasingly alone in the world?

All of those, perhaps.

Jews who are awake to the gathering storm need to join hands. They need the march for Israel more than Israel needs the march.

Security will be tight, and fear might deter people from coming, from marching or even cheering from the sidelines. Many media outlets will undercount the turnout, as usual; international media will pay no mind. And whether the crowd is big or small, it will not change the landscape in Columbia, the UN, or Gaza.

But a celebration of Israel that doesn’t draw masses of Jews from across the tri-state area and beyond – multifarious multitudes with all types of head coverings or none at all – will do more damage than canceling the parade would have caused. It will not only broadcast weakness and surrender to anyone watching (foe or friend), but send a message to the Jews who do stand with Israel that that bond between Am Yisrael and the Jewish homeland is not in fact unbreakable. That, like Israel, they are fighting their courageous battle alone.

The pesukim, the prayers, the professed longing – mostly lip service.

I remember when the sidewalks were so thick with spectators, you had to push against gravity to get from one block to the next. It hasn’t been like that for decades. But if ever Fifth Avenue needed to overflow with crowds cheering “Am Yisrael Chai!” this is the year. This is the time.

Is there a future for proud Jewish life in America? We’ll find out on Sunday.

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Ziona Greenwald, a contributing editor to The Jewish Press, is a freelance writer and editor and the author of two children's books, “Kalman's Big Questions” and “Tzippi Inside/Out.” She lives with her family in Jerusalem.