Lag B’Omer to spark Jewish festivities worldwide

Children and their parents gather around a bonfire to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Lag Baomer, on May 17, 2022, in Tel Aviv. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90 *** Local Caption *** ?''? ????? ?? ???? ????? ????? ????? ?????? ?????? ??

For some communities, the celebration of Jewish unity takes on special meaning this year with war raging in Ukraine.

 Jewish communities around the world will gather in backyards, streets, parks and even cemeteries to celebrate Jewish pride, unity and even mysticism, beginning on the evening of May 18 and lasting until sundown on May 19.

The festive day, known as Lag BaOmer—the 33rd day of the Omer count, which concludes with the holiday of Shavuot—marks the passing of the great sage and mystic Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, author of the Zohar, and also commemorates the end of a plague that affected the students of Rabbi Akiva. The reason for the plague was a lack of respect for one another among the students, and so the day is marked by celebrating Jewish unity.

While in the northern hemisphere, it’s a spring holiday, in New Zealand—the first Jewish community to usher in the festivities—the trees are shedding their leaves. Chabad-Lubavitch of Auckland, New Zealand, will gather in the evening for a traditional bonfire and barbecue, complete with inflatable entertainment and face-painting for the children.

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“It’s the perfect time to come together and celebrate our proud Jewish community,” says Rabbi Mendel Hecht, co-director of Chabad of New Zealand with his wife, Esther. “As the first community to begin all Jewish holidays, we’ll show everyone how it’s done!”

Even in California, it’s not quite warm yet. In Mammoth Lakes, an alpine town in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, it was still snowing last week. But Chabad of Mammoth Lakes has plowed ahead with two Lag BaOmer events—one on the nearby Convict Lake, the other 40 miles away in Bishop, Calif., where Rabbi Yisrael and Mushky Gordon, co-directors of Chabad of Mammoth Lakes, commute regularly, offering Torah classes and holiday programming to the dozens of Jews in the nearby town. Community members will bring their boats and kayaks for a family fun day on the lake, with the kosher barbecue and s’mores provided.


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