The Times Square kumzitz, an annual event run by the Israel Club, is a celebration of love for Israel, which for many Jewish people encompasses their daily lives and many of the decisions that they make. The kumzitz celebrated a devotion to Israel that is intertwined with and identity as a Jew, and a devotion to a place that has been the focus of the Jewish people since the time of Abraham.
The New York Police Department called the kumzitz, which took place on September 24, a “Jewish festival.” True, it was not an official holiday on the Jewish calendar. Yet, how could one not call the intense celebration of that night a festival? Imagine more than 1000 people from all ages singing and dancing to songs about the Jewish people’s longing for Israel. People on the street stood there in fascination as they filmed the excitement that was apparent on the participants’ faces. They were celebrating their Jewish pride, their Jewish culture, and the source of our rich heritage in the most bustling part of New York City.
The kumzitz was an opportunity to engage the general New York City community in a way that would allow them to see Israel in a new, non-political light. This was why the theme of this event was achdut – unity. There were no political speeches and no political messages. There was only love and solidarity, exemplified through song and dance.
Some of the people who came by to watch what was happening later joined in the celebration. For them, the kumzitz was one of their first “real” introductions to Israel. It was also a way for people who already knew about Israel to forget about politics for two hours and to rejoice in the common love for the country and for what it means to the Jewish people. Swaying together to the songs and prayers that were were recited, perhaps standing next to someone you had never met before, made this event the unifying experience that it was.
Last year, the kumzitz took place in the middle of a series of many stabbings in Jerusalem. This year, thankfully, it took place in a period of relative peace in Israel, and students were able to unite in a non-reactionary way. They were there just in celebration of what Israel means to the Jewish people.
The Israel Club is looking forward to seeing everyone there again next year (or, alternatively, in Jerusalem).