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Kew Gardens event shows patriotism for Israel, U.S.

Billed as a "Celebration of the Spirit of Independence," some 70 people gathered at Freedom Square on Main Street and 75th Avenue in Kew Gardens for an event heavy on both American and Jewish patriotism as speakers touched on the connections between the two.

"We celebrate the anniversary of the death of the founder of modern Zionism," City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) said. "As we see now and as we saw then, a terrible price has to be paid to be free."

Zionism is a movement that supports the Jewish national state of Israel.

"This is a day of reflection," City Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis) said. "It gives us a chance to reflect on the similarities and unities between the United States and the state of Israel.

"Unfortunately, it took the tragedy of 9/11 to understand what the residents of the state of Israel live with on a daily basis," he continued. "We cannot let the terrorists win. We have to go on with our lives."

Jeff Gottlieb, representing state Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing), gave a short summation of Herzl's life, including his fight against European anti-Semitism in the late 1800s that spurred his decision to establish a separate state for Jews. In 1897 Herzl formed an influential annual congress to work toward that goal.

"Herzl was a playwright," Gottlieb said. "People had a choice to live an easy life, but he chose his love of the country."

Also honored at the event was Dr. Mordecai Hacohen, who helped establish United States-Israeli ties after the state's founding. He was presented with a proclamation from Gottlieb on McLaughlin's behalf, saluting him for making "American society more sensitive toward the Israeli people" and his "extraordinary contribution to the people of Queens ... the entire borough and beyond."

While accepting the proclamation, Hacohen said: "I have atoned for Israel's transgressions and will continue to do so, with God's help, until the end of my days."

His grandson Malkah Cohen later presented honors to members of the American Veterans for Israel.

"We stand here and celebrate 228 years of freedom in the United States of America," said Jason Kaatz, Queens County commander of the Jewish War Veterans. "We must be reminded that we are a nation at war. We must stand against the destruction of Western civilization and values we cherish as Americans.

"We celebrate here today freedom," Kaatz said, calling for a moment of silence "for fallen soldiers from all wars, so that other nations may enjoy the same freedoms we do."

Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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