The June 1 Salute to Israel Parade up 5th Avenue will have shofars blowing, dancers tapping, drummers drumming and one more thing – a Russian accent.
Close to 10 arts and entertainment groups from Brighton Beach, including the Brighton Beach Ballet Theater, local rhythmic gymnastic team and others, will take part in the 22-block trek along New York City’s world famous thoroughfare.
“It’s going to have a totally new flavor,” Executive Parade Director Dina Leader told the Bay News this week. “This is the first year that I see the Russian community coming out in such a strong way, not only in numbers but in devotion and the type of energy they’re putting forward.”
Devotion to the State of Israel runs deep in many communities throughout Brooklyn, but according to Leader, that sense of kinship might run particularly deep in Brighton Beach because of the experiences of many Russian émigrés living here.
“They are familiar with discrimination and anti-Semitism,” Leader said. “They know it and lived through it. They know the importance of having a homeland.”
Many Brighton Beach residents also have relatives living in Israel which also strengthens that special connection.
“It’s not a foreign country to them,” Leader said. “When a tragedy occurs in Israel, it’s very often felt here. The fact that they can walk up 5th Avenue is an expression that it belongs to them.”
This is the first year that Leader will be at the helm of the parade. She herself emigrated with her family from the former Soviet Union in 1972. For a time they lived on West 8th Street in Coney Island.
“You’re caught in a whirlwind of excitement,” Leader said of her experience helping to organize the parade. “It’s like figuring out a jigsaw puzzle.”
The Salute to Israel Parade is the largest event of its kind in the world. This year’s edition coinciding with the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Jewish state is expected to draw 100,000 participants and a million spectators.
Dance troupes will stop at different points along the parade route to perform for onlookers, so “There’s going to be something to see at all times,” Leader said.
The Salute to Israel Parade will take place from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on June 1 rain or shine.