For the first time, area day schools will march together at the 53rd annual Celebrate Israel Parade on Sunday, June 4, in Manhattan, walking under the Greater MetroWest banner and wearing color-coordinated T-shirts. The four local schools have been collaborating in various ways since 2006 through the Greater Metro-West Day School Initiative.
“The schools enjoy the greater sense of community and added value that the Day School Initiative regularly brings to the faculty and students,” said Rebecca Hindin, manager of the Initiative. “This is another feature of this remarkable collaboration.”
Hindin acknowledged that she also hopes the increased exposure will help advertise the vitality of the community’s day schools. “They’ll be wearing our logo proudly as they march down Fifth Avenue,” she said.
For the principals, the goal has less to do with advertising and more with unity. As Rabbi Eliezer Rubin, head of the Kushner schools in Livingston, told NJJN, “Marching as a MetroWest contingent will reinforce to the students the importance and strength of community.”
The participating schools in Sunday’s parade include three out of the four day schools: Golda Och Academy (GOA) in West Orange, Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy/Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston, and the Jewish Educational Center (JEC) in Elizabeth. Gottesman RTW Academy in Randolph will not be marching as it did not have a critical mass of participants.
Each of the participating schools will have their own banner within the Greater MetroWest group, and on their T-shirts will be their respective school logos on the front, with the federation logo on the back.
The idea came from JEC executive director Steve Karp, who saw it as an opportunity to promote the community. “Picture us going down Fifth Avenue,” he told NJJN. “People will say, ‘Wow, what community is this?’ And we can tell them when we stop we are four schools working together without competition.”
The parade got its start in 1964 with a walk organized by Haim Ronen, who worked at the Israel consulate in New York; the Salute to Israel Parade officially began in 1965. In 2011 the name was changed to the Celebrate Israel Parade. Today, about 40,000 marchers participate, down from its peak of more than 100,000 marchers in past decades.
Marching is optional at Golda Och Academy and mandatory in certain grades at Kushner and JEC schools, with exceptions for those who will be taking standardized tests on Sunday or with excused absences.
“Israel is visible in so much of what we do as a school and at the same time we also recognize that people have many competing demands in their lives around this time of year,” said Adam Shapiro, GOA’s head of school. “The parade provides yet another outlet for our community to show their love and support for Israel and we feel fortunate to be able to offer this experience — along with many more — for our students.”
The number of participating synagogues in the Greater MetroWest area has doubled this year, from four to eight. What was the inspiration? Most chalk it up to the federation’s decision to discontinue its policy of charging a registration fee for synagogue participation. The only charge this year is around $7 per T-shirt. Synagogues marching with the 2017 community delegation include: Congregation B’nai Israel in Millburn; Mount Freedom Jewish Center in Randolph; Congregation Agudath Israel of West Essex in Caldwell; Congregation Ahawas Achim Bnai Jacob & David in West Orange; Temple B’nai Or in Morristown; Shomrei Emunah in Montclair; Pine Brook Jewish Center in Montville; and Morristown Jewish Center-Beit Yisrael.