The organizers of the annual Salute to Israel Parade are hoping that there will be an unusual sight at the event next week: lots of Israelis.
Michael Miller, executive vice president of the Jewish Community Relations Council, the parade’s “parent” organization, says a special pitch is being made this year to attract as spectators more of the estimated 200,000 Israelis who live in the New York area to the five-hour, almost-mile-long march along Fifth Avenue.
In past years, few Israelis were observed attending the 46-year-old parade, an annual high point for the local pro-Israel Jewish community that organizers traditionally describe as “the single largest gathering in the world in support of Israel.”
When JCRC decided to take the parade under its wing last year, “one of the major concerns was that the Israeli New York population was not in attendance” in large numbers, Miller says. “Anecdotally, there appeared to be fewer Israeli New Yorkers [watching the parade] year to year.”
Leaders of synagogues and other communal organizations have reported for several years that Israelis living here are not active, as a rule, in New York’s mainstream Jewish community.
“They are part of the New York Jewish community ... an important part,” Miller says. “It’s not just the raw numbers,” he says of JCRC’s interest in attracting Israelis to the parade. Symbolically, he says, their presence reflects “the inclusiveness of the Jewish community.”
Parade organizers have reached out to local Sabras this year through articles and ads in the Israeli media, and through social media like Facebook.
The parade’s grand marshal will be Turkish-born Israeli businessman-philanthropist Meshulam Riklis; among celebrities along the route will be boxers Yuri Foreman and Dimitriy Salita, Israeli supermodel Adi Neumann, professional basketball player Omri Casspi and a few dozen American and Israeli political leaders.
The 11 a.m.-4 p.m. event, which will begin with a shofar blast, will include floats, marching bands, motorcycles, street performers, clowns, jugglers, and tens of thousands of marchers, representing local schools and Jewish institutions
Its “primary sponsor,” according to the parade Web site (salutetoisrael.com;  467-8030), is UJA-Federation of New York. Almost three-dozen other organizations, including Israel’s Consulate General, the Jewish Agency, the National Yiddish Book Center and U.S. Census 2010, are listed among supporters.
As part of “Celebrate Israel Week,” JCRC and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn will sponsor a raising of the Israeli flag at Bowling Green Park (Broadway and Whitehall Street), near the site where the first 23 Jews arrived in New Amsterdam in 1654, on Monday at 11:30 a.m.
A world-record-size falafel ball-making is also planned for next week Friday.
The events, Miller says, are designed to draw Israelis and American Jews. “We want people to feel proud of the State of Israel,” he says. “We want people to feel proud of our heritage.”
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