Ukraine’s Jews celebrate Lag Ba’Omer in different ways

“The state of crisis continues to greatly challenge the Jewish routine… [we will] continue to preserve both the communities and the Jewish year cycle.”

Based on an article by ZVIKA KLEIN | The Jerusalem Post | Photos: FJC and JRNU

Jews across Ukraine celebrated the holiday of Lag Ba’omer on Monday and Tuesday amid the crisis. They were left with mixed feelings: Residents of some cities celebrated the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in closed gatherings, while in others there were no celebrations at all. There were also some communities that celebrated as usual, with a festive parade organized by Chabad emissaries, as it does annually worldwide.

Lag Ba’omer is celebrated on the 33rd day of Omer, the 18th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar. It is a break from the semi-mourning period of Sefirat HaOmer and usually includes celebration and dancing and bonfires.

In Zaporizhzhia, there was neither a parade nor a gathering. “Due to the situation, we are forbidden to host any events,” said the city’s rabbi and Chabad emissary, Rabbi Nahum Arntroy. The community is one of the most established and prominent Jewish communities in Ukraine and despite the situation, the rabbi is doing everything to preserve the Jewish lifestyle.

Odessa experienced a few intense shellings in recent days, but the city’s rabbi and Chabad emissary Rabbi Avraham Wolff coordinated with security officials to hold the traditional procession. “We held a series of community events both in the educational institutions and in the Jewish community building as well as at homes of children who couldn’t go out,” he said.

In Kyiv, the Jewish community held the Lag Ba’omer parade and danced through the streets. Rabbi Mordechai Lavanhartz, a Chabad emissary and one of rabbis in the city said that “the children walked in the parade and recited Torah verses together.”

In Vinnytsia, both an event and parade took place. On the eve of Lag Ba’omer, the community gathered and danced around a bonfire that was lit in a large barrel. “Finally a positive fire,” said one of the city’s Jews.

Heads of the Jewish Relief Network Ukraine (JRNU), which runs the emergency center of the Jewish community in the country, said on Wednesday that “it is impossible to describe the importance of observing traditional events in the Jewish community. The state of crisis continues to greatly challenge the Jewish routine but the rabbis of the communities make a great effort to continue preserving both the communities and the Jewish year cycle.”



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