Who Was – And, More Disturbingly, Wasn’t – At The Israel Day Parade
05/24/2010 - 11:39
Gary Rosenblatt

Walking along the route of the Israel Day Parade yesterday, from 72nd Street down to 59th Street along Fifth Avenue, I was reminded once again, and in dramatic fashion, how the expression of Zionism in American has become increasingly the purview of the Modern Orthodox community.

The crowd appeared to be made up primarily of relatives and friends of the marchers – many of the large contingents were day school children – and other observant Jews.

This is consistent with the turnout at protest rallies at or near the United Nations over the last few years when Iranian President Ahmadinejad comes to town, only bigger in size, and with marching bands.

The good news is that the Modern Orthodox continue to inspire enthusiasm and solid support for Israel from within their community, including taking pride in the IDF and remembering kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, now almost four years in enemy hands.

The disturbing news is that much of the rest of the Jewish community – including the haredim and chasidim within Orthodoxy -- for a multitude of reasons, lacks the conviction and/or energy to stand up and literally show the flag for Israel.

One friend who belongs to a large Conservative synagogue in northern New Jersey lamented the fact that the congregation could not even put together one busload of participants for the parade.

Some folks may be disillusioned with Israel. More, I suspect, remain supportive, but not enough to walk the walk.

Much has been written about former New Republic editor Peter Beinart’s stinging critique of the American Jewish establishment (see our Editorial), published in the current New York Review of Books.

There is plenty to debate about it, but one observation seems indisputable: that the Orthodox community is growing in numbers and becoming increasingly parochial and conservative politically. And as liberal Jews “drift away from American Zionist institutions,” Beinart writes, “their Orthodox counterparts will likely step into the breach.”

It’s happening already, and if visual proof was needed, yesterday’s parade was a vivid example.

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This is an indicator of the truth- Reform and Conservative are a dying breed. In 1835, the Reform abandoned all hope of a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem and declared that they would be Germans of the Mosaic persuasion. The Conservative Movement does not belief in the restoration of korbanot. Research indicates that the newer generations in these movements have a weak connection to Israel and these liberal movements are more concerned with the "rights" of Arabs than the rights of Religious Jews who were exiled from Gush Katif, beaten, persecuted, and raped by Chilonim in the IDF. Even free of ideological proofs, statistics demonstrate that demographically, Orthodox Judaism, Torah Judaism, will continue to grow by leaps and bounds, while the Reform and Conservative continue to intermarry and assimilate themselves into the oblivion of secularism and the wasteland of bagels and klezmer to the exclusion of Torah, mitzvot, and Ahavat Yisrael.
Seems a little simplistic to measure support of Israel simply by parade turnout. I have marched some years, missed some. The day does have a heavy bridge&tunnel/fundamentalist vibe that may serve to dissuade more modern jews from attending. Also - it is very unpleasant to deal with the orthodox monsey crowd on the sidelines who are anti-israel and heckle the kids marching. Talk about self-hating jews! I never see any anti-israel reform or conservative groups protesting. whats up with that?
Of course the modern Orthodox were out in force at the Salute to Israel Parade. They know that Israel is the the homeland, the center of the Jewish People. They pray for Jerusalem three times a day (and recite a blessing on its behalf after every meal); overwhelmingly, they send their sons and daughters to learn in Israel for at least a year after high school; they travel frequently to visit friends and relatives here, and to attend smachot; they are, far and away, the stream of American Judaism that sends the most people on aliyah every year. Israel is vitally important, it is our G-d-given patrimony (literally), and Jews everywhere are tied to it (and through it, to each other). These essential truths are inherently understood by observant Jews. Unfortunately, in the US, the further a Jew distances himself from traditional Judaism, the less important Israel and the national liberation movement of the Jewish People (Zionism) seem to be -- on a very personal level. How many non-Orthodox synagogues say a prayer on behalf of Israel's soldiers on Shabbat (both for G-d to keep them safe and to make them victorious)? How many members of those shuls have even heard of Gilad Shalit (let alone offered a prayer for his welfare and swift release from his terrorist captors)? When a Jew is serious about his or her Judaism (on both the religious and national/peoplehood level), then Israel takes on a significance of the highest order. When they are not -- when being "Jewish" is merely one facet of who one is, one's "ethnic background," rather than the overarching reality and framework in which one lives -- then Israel does not hold that importance. The lack of an intimate, personal, direct connection to Israel among American Jews that led so many members of the liberal streams (or of no stream) to stay home on Sunday, rather than to participate in the Salute to Israel Parade, should serve as a wake-up call for all those concerned about the ongoing weakening of Jewish identity in the US today.