Stung by the delays that plagued last year’s Salute to Israel Parade — many groups were more than two hours late in marching — organizers this year hired a professional production company that kept the parade in proper step.
“It made a difference — there were a lot more happy people and the weather was idyllic,” said Rabbi Susie Moskowitz, associate rabbi of Temple Beth Torah in Melville, L.I., as she marched under sunny skies up Fifth Avenue from 57th Street to 79th Street.
“We were told we would start marching between 12:15 and 1 o’clock and we started promptly at 12:15,” she said. “There were some congregants who didn’t come this year because of what happened last year.”
among 320 marchers from 10 Long Island synagogues organized by SAJES, the area’s central agency for Jewish education. Sherry Gutas, a SAJES spokesperson, said there had been twice as many marchers last year, blaming the difference largely on the economy.
“Some synagogues could not budget for the cost of the bus and the parade fee,” she said. “But about one-third of the group never marched before and we had more families marching than ever.”
Mardi Gras Productions, which handles many of the large parades in the city, helped run this year’s Salute to Israel parade.
Michal Brickman, executive producer of the parade, said there were 31 floats instead of the 40 that participated last year, in part because of the economy. But she said there were a “similar number of groups and participants” as last year, which numbered 100,000.
But many marchers were caught up in the excitement of the day.
“It’s exploding — there are so many more people marching,” said Etana Staiman, 15, of Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck, N.J.
Fellow student Atara Yaros, 15, agreed, saying: “Every year there are more and more people who support Israel and more and more people who watch,” agreed her friend.
The theme of this year’s parade was the 100th birthday of Tel Aviv-Yafo, the country’s second largest city. Some of the floats were bedecked with beachside panoramas, palm trees and city skylines. And marchers carried banners reading, “100 Years of Fun Under the Tel Aviv Sun,” “Tel Aviv — the Dream Comes True,” and “Tel Aviv, Busting with Life.”
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai was among the honored guests, along with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. David Paterson.
Marta Shliselberg arrived at the parade from her home in Bridgewater, N.J., at 10:30 a.m. — a half-hour before the parade’s start — with her children. She met her sister and parents at 62nd Street and Fifth Avenue.
“I used to march when I was a kid; now I bring my kids,” she said, pointing to Janine, 7, and Josh, 11, who were standing nearby.
As her sister, Yosefa, waved an Israeli flag, her parents, Rita and Leo Shliselberg of Forest Hills, said they had arrived early to be sure to get a good view.
“It used to be so crowded on the sidewalk here that we had to elbow our way through,” said her father, Leo.
He then looked around and asked, “Where is everybody?”
After the parade, the annual Israel Day Concert in Central Park — an independently organized, right-wing addendum to the parade’s apolitical message — attracted an estimated 20,000 people, according to its organizers.
At the parade itself, a number of other spectators noticed the appreciable drop in the number of spectators this year. But parade organizers said that the crowds swelled in number as the day wore on.
“I like how everybody’s cheering us on and cheering for Israel,” said 12-year-old Judah Wertenteil, who was marching in the parade for the fourth time with his school, the Yavneh Academy in Paramus, N.J. Among others in the line of march was Corinne Steel of Little Neck, who was pushed in a wheelchair by her husband, Leonard. As parade coordinator for the Northeast Queens Jewish Community Council, Steel said she “couldn’t miss” the parade, despite the injury she sustained a week ago after closing the car door on her foot.
“We have 11 synagogues, two organizations — 500 marchers in all,” she said. “I had to be here to make sure everything was OK.”
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