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Elizabeth artist kvells over parade artistry
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Elizabeth artist kvells over parade artistry

The person most responsible for how the Celebrate Israel Parade looks misses much of the glory. Two days after the June 3 event, Karen Ostrove was in her office in midtown Manhattan looking at videos and photos of what she missed. “I’m so busy helping the groups get going, I don’t really get to see the parade itself,” she said.

But she did know what a success it was. “Everything went like clockwork,” and even the rain didn’t dampen things, she declared. “I think it re-energized people. There was such high energy, and everything was bright and colorful.”

Ostrove, who lives in Elizabeth, is an author and former art teacher. She taught at the Jewish Educational Center schools for 11 years, and for 14 years she helped students there create their posters and banners for the parade.

Four years ago, she got the job as art director for the parade. “It just seemed my perfect job,” she said. Working with a colleague and under the supervision of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, by August she comes up with a theme for the next year.

Last year, she chose “In Tune with Israel,” playing on music and culture and all the ways of being in harmony with the country. It enabled groups to highlight the good Israel has done in the world, the people who have been helped, and the creativity of the country’s people.

This year she came up with “Israel branches out.” With 200 groups participating — and with all of them consulting with her — it could have been a tall order finding different angles for each one. But Ostrove had an endless list of possibilities — from the environment, to technology, to historic roots, and visions of the future.

Ostrove also creates an interactive on-line “book” to go with the theme, providing guidance on materials and design strategies — like the fact that lettering on banners and signs needs to be at least eight inches high to read at a glance, and that bright colors work far better than black or white — and exploring all kinds of associated information on Israel.

“I love Israel and it is such a privilege to be involved in creating this celebration of the State of Israel — the largest one in the world. But it should be more than a one-day thing. It’s a chance to really educate people about Israel.”

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