Memorial Day

Memorial Day Parade on Raritan

Anticipation, an empty street with onlookers:

Finally, the parade begins:
Parade begins

The Highland Park politicians march toward the front of the parade. The woman in the red hat is Mayor Meryl Frank. Elsie Foster-Dublin, a councilwoman, is wearing a red blazer and waving. Jon Erickson is on the far left. Padraic Millet is new to the council.

Gary Minkoff


Oops, missed one. At the left is Councilman Gary Minkoff. One of the nice things about living in a small borough like Highland Park is you can be on a first name basis with the politicians.

Gary looks like he is having a nice time, saying hello to the many folks he knows. Including us.


And the parade continues:
Veterans Alliance

New Brunswick marchers are part of the parade. The dancers are always a treat:

If you play on a Highland Park Recreation softball team, you get to march in the parade. My daughter saw a friend from her ballet class marching with her mom:
softball teams

Here are some Girl Scouts (actually, Brownies). We know some of these girls well.
Girl Scouts in parade

The Cub Scouts marched next. This is the first year in a while that I am not marching; my son is now a Boy Scout, and he is up in a Boy Scout camp in Northwest New Jersey this weekend. Having a grand old time, I’m sure. He called yesterday to say he was on top of a cliff.
Mason Resnick


This is Mason Resnick, a professional photographer. And a friend. Here are some photos he took of the Highland Park Street Fair.


And more here by Mason. And here, too.


Wouldn’t be a local parade without the firetrucks:
Fire Trucks

Highland Park First Aid Squad is a group of dedicated, hard-working volunteers:
First Aid Squad

If you’re still with me, the parade ends with short speeches by some veterans and by Mayor Meryl Frank. She mentioned that her father is a World War II veteran. She also said the world was more black-and-white then; now there are more shades of gray.

Here’s the Highland Park High School band:

The bands (there was more than one) played the National Anthem. We said the Pledge of Allegiance. Towards the end, someone sang God Bless America. At the very end, a band played Taps.

Part of the end of the ceremony was laying a wreath under the Doughboy statue.

Next week I will probably be marching with the Boy Scouts in the Salute to Israel Day Parade in New York City.

What’s a Doughboy?

We have this statue down the street from our house. It’s referred to as the “Doughboy.” That’s where the Memorial Day parade today ends.

American men who fought in World War I in France were called “doughboys.” It’s such a strange name, I decided to find out how the name came to be. The term goes back as far as the Mexican-American War of 1846-47, referring to the infantry.

From this site on World War I:

Independently, in the former colonies, the term had come to be applied to baker’s young apprentices, i.e. dough-boys. Again, American soldiers probably were familiar with this usage. This version of doughboy was also something of a distant relative to “dough-head”, a colloquialism for stupidity in 19th Century America. When doughboy was finally to find a home with the U.S. Army it would have a disparaging connotation, used most often by cavalrymen looking down [quite literally] on the foot-bound infantry.

Doughboy statue of Highland Park, New Jersey

More on Memorial Day:

Proclaim Liberty

From Parshat Behar, Leviticus 25:10
“proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof”
וּקְרָאתֶם דְּרוֹר בָּאָרֶץ לְכָל-יֹשְׁבֶיהָ

The above phrase is written on the Liberty Bell. If you read it in the context of the Torah portion, you will realize that it is talking about freeing slaves. In the fiftieth year, one is supposed to free one’s slaves. So one could say the Liberty Bell designers got it wrong; it’s only slaves that are being freed, not everyone. But when you own another human being, you the master is not truly free, either. So indeed the freeing is for everyone.

Here’s a little more explanation of this idea of a master not being free:

The Pnei Yehoshua explains this with a profound psychological insights. Slavery does not only deprive the slave of his freedom, but the master as well. A person who dominates others is not truly free either, and the Talmud correctly states that one who acquires a slave acquires a master over himself (Kiddushin 20a). He who enslaves another becomes enslaved himself.

And here’s background on how the phrase on the Liberty Bell was chosen:

The Pennsylvania Assembly ordered the Bell in 1751 to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of William Penn’s 1701 Charter of Privileges, Pennsylvania’s original Constitution. It speaks of the rights and freedoms valued by people the world over. Particularly forward thinking were Penn’s ideas on religious freedom, his liberal stance on Native American rights, and his inclusion of citizens in enacting laws…
the line in the Bible immediately preceding “proclaim liberty” is, “And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year.” What better way to pay homage to Penn and hallow the 50th year than with a bell proclaiming liberty?

It would have been nice if I had posted this a week and a half ago, right before we read the Torah portion of Behar in the synagogue. However, that did not happen. So I will connect it with Memorial Day, which is tomorrow. On Memorial Day we remember those that died for freedom. We have freedoms today because what of others sacrificed.

Two Celebratory Holidays

This year Lag B’Omer and Memorial Day are three days apart. Interestingly, both holidays have similar themes: people died, let’s have a barbecue.

Lag B’Omer is the anniversary of the death of Torah sage Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yohai. It also commemorates Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 students who stopped dying from a mysterious plague on this day. (However, one friend did say they stopped dying because there were none left, so he’s not sure what the celebration is about). I was once in Israel on Lag B’Omer; there are bonfires everywhere. I have always wondered how the country, being so dry, manages not to burn itself down on this day. Batya shows a campfire being built here.

It sounds like the day is not without problems, as rabbis recently warned:

Lag Ba’omer bonfire fans should be careful not to cause monetary or environmental damage in their enthusiasm to celebrate, cautioned the two Israeli chief rabbis in an announcement.

“When God created Adam he took him and showed him all the trees in Gan Eden,” quoted rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger from ancient homiletic literature (Kohelet Raba). “God said to him, ‘Look at all my creations, how magnificent they are. All that I have created is for you. Be sure not to destroy my world, because if you do there is no one who can repair it.”
However, preparations for Lag Ba’omer, such as the gathering of wood and other combustibles, often involve the stealing of private property by overly enthusiastic children. In addition, the large amount of smoke emitted by the fires is detrimental to the environment.

In addition, just before and during Lag Ba’omer, Magen David Adom receives double the regular number of calls from children and teenagers who have been accidentally burned or hurt preparing bonfires.

The chief rabbis urged the Jews of Israel to be careful with their bonfires to prevent unnecessary damage. They also called for the public to be scrupulous in protecting private property.

In America, we often forget why we celebrate holidays. What’s this one for? Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service.

Memorial Day in Highland Park is a lot of fun because the annual parade. In the past, when my son was a Cub Scout (and for four years I was the Den Mother), we would march together down Raritan Avenue:

Memorial Day Parade 2004
This is the 2004 Memorial Day Parade. I’m wearing the orange t-shirt. Note the price of gas.

This year, however, my son is a Boy Scout, and he will be on Boy Scout Kinus, the weekend camping trip. He was disappointed to hear that the local Boy Scouts don’t march in the local parade because it conflicts with Kinus. I didn’t know he liked the march so much! All I remember are the complaints about needing to walk so far. And the complaints about being told by adults to smile at the crowds.

Are you celebrating either holiday? Any interesting plans?