African-Americans Express Empathy For Israel
Special to the Jewish Week

The annual Israeli Day Parade was not just for about the Jewish community. The African-American community was well represented on Sunday by parade marchers and curbside supporters.

Brooklyn United was one of several groups to bring African-Americans to the parade. This unique and diverse drum corps represented four different regions: Brooklyn, Bronx, New Jersey, and Connecticut. While Brooklyn United is not an exclusively African-American organization, many of its members and volunteers participating in the parade were of an African-American background. When discussing their reason for marching in the parade, Dee Burbulak, manager of Brooklyn United, exclaimed, “Aren’t they [Jews] part of our community, too?” She continued: “We are one in the same; we are one unit.”

Brooklyn United has been marching in the parade for several years now. The marchers, who range from children to senior citizens— and include handicapped members—willingly turn out to show support, and to experience one of the most festive days of the year. “We come to enjoy ourselves and have fun,” explained Burbulak. She explains support for Israel by asking members, “what if the roles were reversed -- how would you feel?”

Many of the students marching with Brooklyn United come from “schools of different ethnic backgrounds,” says Burbulak, who believes this contributes to their well-rounded personalities and tolerance for others.

Lonnell McDonald, a 17-year old African-American drummer for Brooklyn United, said he is able to “enjoy himself and have fun” at the parade, viewing Israel in a positive light.

Other African-Americans illustrated their support from the sidelines. One gentleman from Manhattan said he has been attending the Israel Day parade for the past six years. He said he supports Israel, in part, because “Jews and Christians have a strong relationship…we live in a diverse society and people have to understand each other.”

And he makes sure that people are educated about the situation. “When I talk to people that don’t know the history and therefore make allegations that aren’t true, I ask them questions to make them think,” he said.

Danielle Polland and Marisa Kelly are high school juniors and participants in Write On For Israel, an advocacy-through-journalism program sponsored by The Jewish Week and funded by the Avi Chai Foundation.




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