While encouraging Chasidim to do mivtzoim at the Israel Day Parade, the Rebbe instructed that they stand some blocks away so they don’t appear to be associated with it at all.
Notwithstanding, or perhaps as an extension of, the Rebbe’s great love for Eretz Yisroel, the Rebbe strongly opposed Zionism: the movement, the ideology and its symbolism.
Reb Hershel Fogelman related:
When the Frierdiker Rebbe became a citizen of the United States in 5709 (1949), the Frierdiker Rebbe’s son-in-law, the Rebbe, explained it as follows: Since the State of Israel had just been established, the Frierdiker Rebbe wished to make a public statement that his stance on Zionism had not wavered.
When the mitzva campaigns began, Lubavitch Youth Organization saw the annual Salute to Israel Parade in the heart of Manhattan as a great opportunity to touch thousands of Yidden. Indeed, chassidim channeled the inspiration of many hundreds at these parades in the spirit of Jewish pride, towards fulfilling a mitzva.
However, an explicit directive was given from the Rebbe’s secretariat that chassidim should not stand at the actual parade, to avoid an appearance of association. Anash and bochurim were told to work a few blocks away, or at a nearby subway station.
(Leket Uperet, Yerushalayim 5776, page 114)
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In recent years I was actively involved in the Mitzvah tanks including mivtzoim at the Israel day parade I have spoken to a number of people regarding this and will share with you what they have told me:
Rabbi Kastel of Lubavitch Youth Org. relates: “Rabbi Chadokov called me over and told me that the mivtzoim should be done in the nearby streets, and not on the actual street of the parade (so that it should not seem as if we are among those marching.”
Rabbi Yosef Katzman says: “I was one of the organizers of the Mitzvah Tanks those years. After I heard from Rabbi Kastel I decided to approach to Rabbi Chadokov to discussed with him. Sensing that I was being an oiber chochom, R’ Chadokov replied “not only should you not be on the street of the parade, you should even distance yourself a few blocks and stand at a nearby train station”. I’m unsure if this was from the Rebbe’s directives or simply R’ Chadokov’s response to my attitude.”
Rabbi Shlomo Cunin says: “A very similar parade was done in California. I came with a mitzvah tank and did mivtzoim at their event. When they called security to order me to leave I refused, they then pointed their guns at me. Later photos were printed in the media of the security pointing their guns at a rabbi and they were forced to apologize. I’ve been doing mivtzoim at their events ever since undisturbed. I obviously reported this to the Rebbe and have never received a negative reply from the Rebbe. With all due respect to Rabbi Chadokov, to me it’s clear that this did not come from the Rebbe”
The Mitzvah Tank Office has always followed what LYO was told by Rabbi Kastel and parked the Mitzvah tanks on adjacent streets.