As the sun shone and mirthful sounds arose, hundreds gathered on Community Day School’s grounds to celebrate Lag B’Omer. Children ran as a bongo drum beat, basketballs bounced, sofer wrote and BMX bikes flipped through the air.
“Lag B’Omer is one of the most joyous days on the calendar,” said Rabbi Chonie Friedman of Yeshiva Schools. “It is usually spent outdoors.”
Globally, Jews gather on Lag B’Omer to mark the end of a calamitous plague. Nearly 1,800 years ago, 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva died; however, on Lag B’Omer, the plague subsided.
“In the spirit of Rabbi Akiva [a second-century sage] who said to love others, we come together and spend the day together.”
Friedman explained that for the past 15 years, the Pittsburgh Jewish community has held an event commemorating Lag B’Omer. Recently, however, the event has been adopted as a joint venture between Pittsburgh’s three Jewish day schools.
Under the leadership of Friedman, representatives from Community Day School, Hillel Academy and Yeshiva Schools partnered to host the communal carnival.
Tim Richart, assistant director of institutional advancement at Community Day School, explained that each of the schools contributed and jointly effectuated the event’s facilitation.
“We’ve learned how to simplify things over the years,” he said
Collectively, the group has sought to enhance an event that regularly welcomes close to 800 people. New additions to this year’s carnival included arts-and-craft stations, a petting zoo and a BMX bike show.
“The bike thing is new, and everyone loves it,” said Richart.
Apart from new activities, participants enjoyed hot dogs and falafel, having their names written in Hebrew by a sofer and listening to music from the Moshe Pekkar Orchestra.
Sunday’s carnival was the third time that the event was hosted by the Pittsburgh Jewish day schools. Richart noted that the schools are “always trying to partner on different projects, but this is our big annual event.”
Dovid Taub of Squirrel Hill praised the uniqueness of Pittsburgh’s Lag B’Omer carnival.
“I come from other communities where Lag B’Omer is very much a Chabad community thing. But here, where the three day schools come together, it feels like it belongs to everyone,” he said.
Elan Sokol, also of Squirrel Hill, stated: “It’s amazing when the community gets together. It’s one of my favorite things ever, unity.”
Rabbi Michael Werbow, rabbi of Congregation Beth Shalom, added: “Lag B’Omer, or any opportunity to come together, strengthens what we do. And with Shavuot coming up, we’ll celebrate together again, and it’s a great thing.”
(Adam Reinherz can be reached at email@example.com.)