Over 9,000 Israeli Americans, American Jews and Israel supporters braved the rain and turned out in their masses to Midtown Manhattan's Pier 94 on Sunday to turn the Big Apple "blue and white" in the inaugural Celebrate Israel Festival New York.
The event featured a variety of Israeli pop culture stars, including the famous singer Rita, children's entertainer Rinat Gabay, a score of famous Israeli jazz musicians sponsored by the Blue Note Records label, and pop star Kobi Aflalo who made a surprise appearance and sang in a duet with Rita.
The Israeli-American Council (IAC) hosted the event together with Israel's Consulate General in New York, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY), and the UJA-Federation of New York, and lauded the event as a turning point for the Israeli community in New York.
"Celebrate Israel New York was a game-changer for Israeli-Americans in New York and beyond,” IAC's New York regional director Yehudit Feinstein-Mentesh said.
"On Sunday we came together in a powerful embrace to celebrate the rich, multi-layered culture of Israel in the Big Apple," she added. "We sang and cried with Rita and Kobi, laughed with Rinat and painted the town blue and white for the first of what we expect will be many magical moments.”
The event kicked off with Israel's Ambassador in New York Ido Aharoni and the CEO of UJA-Federation Eric Goldstein welcoming the Israeli-American community.
Aside from musical performances, the event featured Israeli-themed attractions – notably a food court with Israeli cuisine, a technology pavilion showcasing innovative Israeli startups, a mini Tel Aviv beach allowing toddlers to play in front of a backdrop of the city, and a basketball clinic with former Israeli basketball stars Derrick Sharp and David Blu of Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Celebrate Israel New York rounds out a month-long series of IAC Celebrate Israel Festivals nationwide, with events taking place in Boston, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Miami throughout May. A total of 50,000 people took part in the events.