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Where’s Our Parade?

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01/05/2016

Where's Our Parade photo

Paul with his family at Israel Solidarity Day in 2015

I love Israel Solidarity Day and the Walk with Israel, but while a participatory walkathon is important, I want a parade -- floats and bands and a grandstand, the whole schmear.

A Jewish Parade, with a capital P.

Every year in Chicago, we see the St. Patrick's Day and Gay Pride and Columbus Day parades, among others, and they are great fun. But there are 300,000 Jews in Chicago, too. So where's our parade?

Yes, we have the Jewish Festival every other June, when we head out to a forest preserve and stuff our faces and groove to live music. I love it, I have attended almost every festival, and I think I have certainly at least written about it every time.

But I want a parade. Down Michigan Avenue or State Street. Haven't we earned it?

We can tie it into a holiday, like St. Pat's or Cinco de Mayo. Now, no one wants to schlep around outside in Chicago during Chanukah; we already bought our High Holiday tickets; and we promised Bubbie we'd be home for Passover.

So I nominate Purim. The Purimshpiel was the original Mardi Gras anyway. Think about it -- a free-for-all costume parade in early spring? Shushan is a much older city than New Orleans, people.

OK, so for next Purim, I want a huge, brash, proper parade. I want to tie up traffic for miles while people throw confettti at us.

I want klezmer bands and Sephardi oud ensembles and Israeli dancers promenading down the street. There could be an All-Shofar Ensemble and the Cantor's Assembly float, which would not need microphones. There would be floats with Jewish a cappella groups, both college and pro.

I want one band made up of all the Jewish students in all Chicago's high school marching bands, all wearing their own school's uniforms, but playing the same songs. They would be led by a similar array of cheerleaders, all from different schools, but leaping and tumbling together.

I want baton-twirling, and juggling -- and the One-Hundred-Gragger Brigade, made up entirely of kids, graggering the entire way (like we could stop them).

I want guys with kibbutz hats in teeny tractors zooming around; you can call them the Geshrai-ners.

And not just performers; local celebrities -- activists, scholars, athletes, broadcasters, officials -- leaders from all fields in convertibles, simply waving and being there. Showing up because they are us, or just because they stand by us.

The Shomrim Society of Jewish police officers would march. And the Jewish War Veterans. Even great Jews from history could attend, in the guise of actors in costumes.

Synagogues would have floats, and so would organizations, and unions … and restaurants and hospitals and retailers, everyone. I want corporations and public officials sponsoring floats. Religious, political, social groups -- anyone who has benefitted from the work and wisdom of Chicago's Jews.

There could be floats representing Jewish holidays; Jewish history; Jewish inventions; Jewish movies; Jewish achievements in every field.

Overhead, I want gigantic balloons of Jewish cartoon characters like Feivel Mousekewitz and Krusty the Clown.

Last, I want Mel Brooks and Natalie Portman commenting from the grandstand, spicing their remarks with Yiddishisms and Israeli slang.

Imagine it: Ten miles of floats, all poised and glittering. Tens of thousands gathered on the sidewalks, with graggers and toy shofars.

Then a drum majorette brandishes her baton -- with a Magen David at the tip. She starts to march, followed by Haman leading regally dressed Mordechai on a huge white horse. "Thus shall be done to the one the king wishes to honor!" he calls on his megaphone. At this, the first band bursts into a raucous "Hava Nagila!"

After them, hundreds of people -- Jews and others -- follow behind, winding their way through the heart of one of the most important cities in the world.

Purim in 2016 is on Thursday, March 24. We have mere months to make this happen, people.

Oh, and I get dibs on inviting Mel.

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