May 23, 2024
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Rain or Shine: Support for Israel Strong in Central Park Israel Day Concert

In 1993, Dr Joseph R. Frager was among the initiators of an event that has become a beloved post-Salute to Israel Parade tradition. The Israel Day Concert in Central Park, sponsored by the Israel Concert-in-the-Park Committee, in association with Young Israel Chovevei Zion, and the National Council of Young Israel, was once again organized by Dr. Joe and Karen Frager, with Dr. Paul and Drora Brody serving as chairpersons for the tenth consecutive year.

The concert was founded by the late Carl Freyer z’l and his wife Sylvia, at the request of the Chief Rabbi of Efrat, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin.

The annual event was held at Central Park’s Summerstage, at the Rumsey Playfield. Radio personality Nachum Segal served as the emcee, Zvika Bornstein as the musical producer, Shloime Dachs as the musical director and Odeleya Jacobs as the media coordinator.

A array of classic and contemporary Israeli, American, French and English performers including: Gad Elbaz, LIPA, Alex Clare, Tal Vaknin, accompanied by pianist extraordinaire Shlomi Aharoni, Shloime Dachs, Mati Shriki, Avraham Rosenblum and his band consisting of Ruby Harris, Izzy Kieffer, Heshy R and Sam Ramras and Shloime Dachs Orchestra & Singer, to present a rich musical program. Israel Alliel and Steve Lucas, both from France, Chaim Kiss, Born Kids and the Broadway Youth Ensemble were also featured. Jerry Markovitz and Israel Alliel both rendered unique, moving presentations of the Hatikva and Star Spangled Banner, respectively. Young Chazzan Aryeh Pollack delivered a heartfelt “Aveinu SheBaShamayim.”

The Israel Day Concert– The Concert With a Message, offers significantly more than music. This year was no exception. The concert was dedicated to the memory of Gilad Shaar hy”d, Naftali Frankel hy”d and Eyal Yifrach hy”d and all those the world-over who died Al Kiddush Hashem (in sanctification of God’s name).

Following several musical segments, speakers presented religious and political themes, especially noting the strong support for Israel throughout the United States and the need to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons.. Assemblyman David Weprin brought greetings from the State of New York and presented a citation from the New York State Assembly to Dr. Frager and to Dr. Brody and his wife Drora, commemorating the concert. City Councilman Rory Lancman and National Council of Young Israel President Farley Weiss spoke as well.

Ken Abramowitz, President of the American Friends of Likud, discussed his warnings about the threats to western civilization. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach exhorted the large crowd, estimated at over 10,000 people, with his usual dramatic eloquence.

The concert’s keynote speaker, former governor and recently declared candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination, Mike Huckabee, was scheduled to speak well in advance of his recently announced plans. His presence marks the first time that a declared candidate has appeared in the concert’s 22-year history. Gov. Huckabee was most warmly received by the overflow crowd. The governor, who has made 42 visits to Israel – starting when he was 17 years old – is a strong pro-Israel advocate. He has been accompanied to Israel four times by Drs. Frager and Brody. Gov. Huckabee’s positions on the need to maintain the strong American-Israeli alliance, demand for the prevention of a nuclear armed Iran, the urgency of freeing Jonathan Pollard and halting the BDS movement and never expelling Jews from their own country, as was done 10 years ago in Gush Katif, were enthusiastically received.

The concert notice promised “Rain or Shine!” Thunder and lightening were not among the acceptable weather conditions. What had begun as a gentle drizzle soon became a downpour – a deluge of momentous proportion.

The concert was scheduled to last five hours, until 7:30 p.m. However, just after 4 p.m., the storms that had literally “hung over” the Salute to Israel Parade throughout the afternoon became the dominant weather element, changing conditions rapidly. Facing the threat of a violent lightning storm, the Parks Department personnel declared SummerStage closed at 5 p.m. and instructed everyone to peacefully leave the park.

Despite the downpour,a the concert accomplished its mission. The music rocked Central Park and the importance of the speakers’ messages reached every one of the thousands of listeners, as well as, hopefully, the governments of America, Israel and the world.

By Maxine Dovere

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