Jewish communities around the country are gearing up for their annual July 4th celebrations, noting the opportunity America has afforded Jewish life in allowing the unprecedented explosion in Torah study and observance of the past few decades.

Some of the kosher barbeques and parade presentations by Chabad-Lubavitch centers will occur before Independence Day this year, as commemorations of the 17th anniversary of the passing of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory – who passed away on the third day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz – will begin Monday evening. (The previous Thursday happened to mark 70 years since the Rebbe and Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, of righteous memory, arrived in the United States after fleeing war-torn Europe.)

Chabad of Cary, N.C., is continuing its annual July 4th barbeque tradition by welcoming families from the local community. And Chabad at La Costa in Carlsbad, Calif., will kick off its weekly summer barbeque season on July 3. Close to 60 adults and children will enjoy all-you-can-eat kosher grilling as they overlook the Batiquitos Lagoon and sit beneath two local resorts’ fireworks displays.

“The warm and gracious community comes together to have a great time,” said Sheila Lebovits of La Costa. “The Fourth of July is a celebration of when our country became free, and without G‑d’s help, there wouldn’t be that freedom.”

The Rebbe, on several occasions, likewise referred to the uniqueness of America in providing a place where Judaism could thrive.

“The United States has been host to the headquarters of our movement since 1940,” he wrote to President Gerald Ford in 1975. “Under the conducive conditions of religious freedom in this great country, whose motto is ‘In G‑d We Trust,’ our 200-years-old movement, which I have been privileged to head and lead for the past 25 years, has been able to flourish with renewed dedication and vitality, and to make a lasting contribution, particularly in the area of education and youth activity, so vital in the present day and age.”

Rebecca McCarthy, also of the La Costa area, attends most of the barbeques with her husband and children.

“There aren’t many places around here to get kosher food, so this is a great way for the whole family to get together and eat kosher too, without having to travel too far,” said McCarthy. “It’s so family friendly and really fun for the kids. We just love it and it’s a great place to spend the Fourth.”

Traveling farther north to Chabad of the Pacific Palisades, the community is planning a kosher barbeque to be followed by participation in the local Americanism parade. Local families and rabbis will hop on a double-decker bus bedecked with a banner as they join the festivities in the streets of town.

An Independence Day celebrant dons the Jewish prayer boxes known as tefillin in a Mitzvah Mobile.
An Independence Day celebrant dons the Jewish prayer boxes known as tefillin in a Mitzvah Mobile.

The Friendship Circle of Columbus, Ohio – part of an international network of programs that pair teenage volunteers with children with special needs – is also planning to participate in a local parade where 30 children with special needs and teen volunteers will march with banners. And Chabad of Northbrook, Ill., will join its local village parade where thousands come to celebrate the holiday. Rabbi Meir Moscowitz is planning to drive a mobile synagogue-on-wheels through the parade distributing Jewish giveaways and kosher candy.

“The community really appreciates that there is a Jewish presence in the parade and we always receive positive feedback,” said Moscowitz.

In the summer getaway destination of Rhinebeck, N.Y., Chabad of Dutchess County welcomed Lt. Moshe Greenberg to its Sabbath table Friday night. Guests enjoyed traditional American fare while listening to the veteran’s account of his return to his Jewish roots.

For Chabad in Atlantic City, N.J., July 4th is a momentous occasion for its community of summer vacationers. As one of the two dates when barbequing is permitted on the beach, the holiday will see Rabbi Avrohom Rapoport wearing American flag getup under a tent on the sand, distributing 200 free kosher hot dogs to passersby.

“It’s a great way to attract Jews and to get to know them in a more casual environment,” said Ron Mangel, who attends Chabad events at the Jersey shore. “In America, we have the most freedom to practice our religion, and we should be proud of this. Let’s celebrate July 4th because of our ability in this country to practice our religion the way we see fit.”