Warm weather brought back the crowds at the Celebrate Israel Parade on Sunday, which was interrupted in the past two years by the pandemic. Having marched for many years as a participant and a reporter, this year I was quarantined at home as a result of a positive COVID test. No symptoms, and nearly everyone in my social circle is vaccinated, but such are the rules. So, my family went without me, and I relied on the words of my daughter’s classmates, friends, and elected officials on this year’s parade experience.

“It was our first year at YCQ, and it was very special for our son Aharon. It was amazing to see the unity of am Yisrael,” said Debora Shimon. “We drove from Queens. It was easier to watch the parade from the sides.”

The Shimon family cherished the parade, as they live in a neighborhood with few Jews. As they grew in observance, they enrolled their son in YCQ and have plans to move to a larger Jewish community. “We live in Whitestone. I bring challah to elderly in the neighborhood, and we keep Shabbos, but it is hard. We make it as fun as we can. When the right time comes, we will move. It is very important to teach our children Judaism.”

The parade was led by honoree Harley Lippman, a tech entrepreneur who traveled to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for the Smithsonian Institution, hosted the Saudi ambassador at his Hamptons home last year, and assisted the Trump administration in brokering the Abraham Accords.

He marched alongside Governor Kathy Hochul, Attorney General Letitia James, and other members of the state’s political leadership. “New York State is home to the single largest Jewish community outside of Israel, and I look forward to not just maintaining, but growing the dynamic relationship between New York and Israel for years to come,” she said in a statement ahead of the parade.

The congressional delegation at the parade included Reps. Jerry Nadler, Carolyn Maloney, and Grace Meng, as well as Ritchie Torres, who was greeted with applause as the outspoken “pro-Israel progressive.” The second-term Bronx Democrat noted that, with redistricting, his district is picking up a sizable Jewish constituency. “I had a wonderful time marching in the @CelebrateIsrael Parade,” he tweeted. “The new NY15 includes Riverdale’s own @SARacademy, whose students were marching in the parade. Looking forward to representing Riverdale!”

Israel’s governing coalition was represented by Defense Minister Benny Gantz, flanked by Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata, and Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai. “It is inspiring to see Jews, non-Jews, and many aliyah organizations marching together,” Tamano-Shata said to reporters. “Now, more than ever, it’s important that the Israeli people know that their support is not only from within Israel but also from the Diaspora.”

The attendance of elected officials visibly demonstrates their support for Israel, as much as legislation, resolutions, and statements. In a redistricting year when there are races for Congress across the country, the presence of candidates is also notable. Rep. Lee Zeldin, of eastern Long Island, is running against Hochul as a Republican. He marched alongside his party colleagues, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman and Nassau Legislator Mazi Melesa Pilip, who was born in Ethiopia and served in the IDF before immigrating to Long Island.

“The US-Israel relationship is vitally important to both nations. In Congress, it’s been an honor to serve as Co-Chair of the House GOP Israel Caucus,” Zeldin tweeted.

Former mayor Bill de Blasio also marched, having declared a day earlier that he is running for the congressional seat in his Park Slope home.

Mayor Eric Adams marched with a delegation that included local community activists. “We go way back, from when he was the Brooklyn Borough President. It was important to march with him as he’s always supported the Jewish community. It was an honor,” said Victoria Zirkiev, who marched with her husband Shalom and their children.

“It was full of energy and crowded. You could see the excitement. Nissim Black made a huge statement, as an African American oleh, by performing in the parade.”

 By Sergey Kadinsky