New York City’s ‘Celebrate Israel Parade’ this year was led by 2017 Grand Marshal Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun and Principal Emeritus of the Ramaz School. Lookstein is also the rabbi responsible for the conversion of Ivanka Trump, whose Hebrew name is now Yael.
Four honorary Grand Marshals included Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Israeli mixed martial arts fighter Chaim Gozali, Tiki Barber of the New York Giants and celebrity chef Jamie Geller. Beyond that, the Government of Israel sent a massive delegation, headed by Minister of Public Security and Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan, and Likud Knesset Member Avi Dichter, a former Shin Bet director. Dozens of American officials were led by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, as well as a dozen City Council members and nearly as many NYS Assembly members, as well as Toronto City Council member James Pasternak, all the way from Canada.
Israeli Judoka Bronze Medalist Arik Ze’evi also came as a guest, and the Israel Dance Institute Paparim Ensemble Dancers and Galgal Ba’Ma’agal were among the dance performers; Yarden Klayman, an Israeli Saxophone player, also performed, as did the “Golem’ Klezmer rock band, Six13, and SOULFARM.
The first ‘Salute to Israel’ Parade, held in 1965, was actually more of an impromptu walk down Riverside Drive to show its support for the young State of Israel.
But by 2011 the name had changed to ‘Celebrate Israel’ and so had the numbers and the nature of the event. Instead of thousands, it was now tens of thousands marching and hundreds of thousands on the sidelines to cheer them on all the way up and down Fifth Avenue.
This year there were 11 marching bands, 10 performing groups, 28 floats and vehicles, and too many marching groups to count, from across America and literally from around the world.