We are two proud Jewish New Yorkers (and fathers) of the same age. While we may differ in some of our approaches and styles in business and politics – one of us aligns more with conservative causes and one of us leans to the more liberal – we share a strong interest in celebrating our joy in Israel.
And we agree that this year’s 48th Annual Celebrate Israel Parade is a unique chance for people with far more divergent philosophies than ours, to come together to demonstrate to the world the common love and support we all share for Israel.
Like many others in New York’s Jewish community, we are very concerned about Israel’s image and pay close attention to the never-ending public relations battles against the Jewish State. We each make our living in the world of public relations with our own communications firms - building brands and enhancing images – so we are also uniquely positioned to see these battles from a different perspective, one that can occasionally be unsettling.
We fear many American Jews are losing sight of our sense of community, allowing differences of opinion that are extensions of the larger left vs. right, “religious” vs. “non-religious,” to polarize the Jewish community.
It’s true that not everyone who supports Israel has the same way of expressing their support. We can’t agree on everything, but June 3rd is a day to put differences aside and focus on what unites us: our appreciation for Israel and our fellow Jews. This day is about Israel, what Israel means to us, and how we send that message to the world.
It’s a day to celebrate the strength from the diversity of Am Yisrael.
As fathers of children in Jewish day schools here in Manhattan, we wonder: what message are we sending our children, on a day that is supposed to stand for unity? New generations cannot offer us hope unless we plant the seeds ourselves. It starts with showing up, with being there.
The Jewish people’s willingness to challenge one another is one of our greatest collective strengths, but when we put aside those differences and come together we are even stronger. Though challenging, this ability to elevate ourselves above conflict is what sets us apart and has been displayed through our resilience, as a people, for thousands of years.
A recent example of this strength is when Jews of different political backgrounds came together to defeat a local attempt to boycott Israeli products.
Considering this positive example, as well as the challenges facing Israel - like the Iranian nuclear threat and the uncertainty around surrounding countries - this is a time for us to stand together and show the world that we can put aside our differences.
So it is particularly inexplicable, disappointing and more than a little ironic to see Jews who claim to oppose the boycott of Israel suggesting the boycott of this day of solidarity. Above all, it undermines our common goal: wanting to display to the world a strong, united front in support of Israel.
We proactive, pro-Israel, committed Zionists can make the pro-BDS organizations participating in the parade fade into the background simply by being there in full force.
June 3rd is a day, this year of all years, to celebrate the beauty of Israel – the land and her people, our children and families marching in the parade, and the diversity of the American Jewish community.
With that in mind, the theme of this year’s parade is “Israel Branches Out.”
40 new groups – including 15 new congregations – have signed up to march in the parade this year. With over 30 thousand marchers, this is the largest celebration of Israel in the world- and intended to be nonpartisan and apolitical. It is the perfect opportunity to celebrate all of the wonderful things about Israel that the general public does not have the opportunity to hear about in the news every day.
And from a public relations perspective, this is an annual golden moment that is not to be wasted or misused. Let’s make the most of it, together.
So let’s look forward to June 3rd as an opportunity to celebrate what we have in common - our care and love for Israel. Enjoy yourself, enjoy your family and enjoy all that we have to celebrate as Jews today. We will both march in the parade and show up for Israel – we hope you will too.
Matthew Hiltzik, President and CEO of Hiltzik Strategies, co-authored this article with Ronn Torossian, President and CEO of 5WPR. They are both proud, committed Jews.