Fighting (and Singing) for Israel in New Jersey
This month, New York’s loss was New Jersey’s gain. For the first time ever, on Sunday June 6, Bergen County held a “Unite for Israel Parade” after the pandemic forced the annual Fifth Avenue parade to be canceled.
Despite having under two weeks to prepare, the Jewish community of Bergen County rallied and was able to put together an incredible event with several thousand people in attendance.
I asked one of the event organizers, Yehuda Kohn, how they managed to organize such a big event for the first time. “We had a core committee of eight people, but hundreds of people volunteered to make the event possible,” said Kohn.
“We didn’t know how many people would come, but we felt that we should try. We are very proud that we were able to make it happen in less than two weeks,” he stated. “I’m happy we can show love and support for Israel as a unified community.”
As an Israeli living in New York City — and as someone who has spent years helping to promote positivity about Israel — I couldn’t have been happier to attend this special event. I’ve been to several events supporting Israel and Jewish causes recently, but this parade stood out for a number of reasons.
The love that the Jewish community of New Jersey has for Israel is palpable. It filled me with so much pride to see hundreds of children with signs, dressed up with Israeli flags on their shoulders, and dancing to Jewish songs along the parade route.
The enthusiastic participation of 21 schools made it clear to me that this Zionist spirit is a direct result of the tireless, year-round efforts of rabbis, community leaders, teachers, and parents.
I could feel the energy as soon as I arrived in Teaneck after a short trip from Manhattan.
Once I arrived in Teaneck, I joined the group at the Cross River Bank meetup location, where the popular 14-year old Netanel Katz, aka “Simcha on Wheels,” was singing with high energy to warm up the crowd, wearing an Israeli flag, and sporting a top hat and vest.
US Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) spoke at the event, and expressed his strong support for Israel and its right to defend itself against terrorist organizations like Hamas. “There should never be a question of who the US stands with,” Gottheimer said. “We stand with our ally, Israel.”
At the concert, I saw many familiar faces and made many new friends due to the prominent “Kosher Barbie Stands with Israel” sign I was carrying and my crowd-pleasing dog, “Kiss.” Kiss is a three-pound Pomeranian who is known for her presence at every single Israeli event in New York. She’s so ubiquitous that she’s been called “The Hebrew National Dog.”
I was also happy to run into one of the young students who is part of the cast of my Hebrew television show, My Hebrewland — 11-year old Roshel Lovely.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this opportunity to dance and sing Jewish songs,” Roshel told me. “Israel is in my heart. Most of my relatives live in Israel, and I felt connected today, even though I miss them all.”
She could have been speaking for everyone at this wonderful event in New Jersey.
Ayelet Raymond is a film and musical director who lives in New York City. She collaborated with young Broadway performers to create the American children’s television show My Hebrewland. She is the creative force behind the Kosher Barbie character and social media personality.