New York – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was among the 40,000 people who marched in the five hour long Celebrate Israel parade which began at 11 AM Sunday morning at 57th Street and continued north until 74th Street.
Thousands of onlookers lined the streets, many waving Israeli flags, cheering and waving as the many schools, organizations, marching bands, bands, floats and special performers passed by.
The theme of this year’s parade was Only In Israel, with marchers wearing t-shirts boasting Israel’s claims to fame, from falafel and shakshuka to Zaka Search and Rescue and Waze.
Just days after a Jewish museum in Crown Heights was defaced by anti-Semitic graffiti, Cuomo spoke out against anti-Semitism at the Celebrate Israel parade, unveiling plans to for a solidarity trip to Israel to be held in the upcoming weeks.
Cuomo marched shoulder to shoulder at the parade with his family members and with Devorah Halberstam, co-founder and director of the Jewish Children’s Museum, built in memory of her son Ari who was killed in a terror attack on the Brooklyn Bridge in 1994.
As previously reported on VIN News, the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force was called in after the words “Hitler is Coming” were found scrawled on the popular kids’ museum on Thursday.
Speaking at the parade, which proceeded through Midtown and up 5th Avenue beneath sunny skies, Cuomo noted that anti-Semitic attacks have risen 57 percent in the United States and 83 percent in New York, categorizing the incidents as a cancer.
“We can have political differences about Israel and Palestine, that’s what makes democracy, that debate,” said Cuomo. “But when did the strongest four letter word in America become hate instead of love? That’s what most troubling.”
Cuomo said that he and his family have taken the attacks to heart, noting that he has both friends and family who are Jewish.
“These anti-Semitic attacks, the Cuomo family takes personally,” said Cuomo. “Every family in New York takes [them] personally.”
Cuomo said that he will be leaving to Israel at the conclusion of the current legislative session and invited his Jewish colleagues to join him as a sign of solidarity.
“New York stands with Israel,” said Cuomo. “We are all Jewish today. We all appreciate the Jewish community. They are part of what makes New York, New York and one of the best parts.”
Ending his remarks Cuomo quipped, “Any questions for myself or any of my mishpacha?”
Numerous other elected officials also marched in the parade including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York State Attorney General Letitia James, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and numerous members of the New York City Council and the New York State Assembly and Senate.
“It’s a great day here on Fifth Avenue with all the crowds,” Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein told VIN News. “With everything going on in the city and in the country, it’s a great way to show our love for Israel and to see communities all united in support of Israel today.”
The annual parade recognizing the State of Israel was originally launched in 1964 as the Salute to Israel parade by Tom Comet. Traveling the parade route today in a vintage 1963 Chrysler Imperial, Comet said that he was overjoyed to see today’s turnout.
“It is beyond expression,” said Comet. “The ruach, the spirit, the sense of community. I never expected this but it is marvelous to see it.”