Coinciding with the Jewish Holiday Lag B’omer on May 12, Chabad Intown conducted a lively car parade. Traditionally Lag B’omer commemorates the end of a pandemic that struck the 24,000 students of the Talmudic sage, Rabbi Akiva, 2,000 years ago. Ever since, it has been celebrated with public parades as a day of healing and emergence into the public sphere.
Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman, parade coordinator and Chabad Intown director, noted, “As we endure the effects of the coronavirus this year and pray for its end, the theme of Lag B’omer resonates particularly strongly and personally.”
The Lag B’omer Parade left from Chabad Intown, 730 Ponce de Leon Place, and paid tribute to the healthcare providers at Emory University Hospital Midtown, Piedmont Atlanta Hospital and WellStar Atlanta Medical Center.
The parade featured video footage and images of the healthcare workers: doctors, nurses, first responders, janitors, and a salute to their tireless efforts on behalf of the community during the pandemic. The video was produced for the parade and projected onto the walls of a mobile LED screen truck.
In all, 25-plus cars made a lively procession with the truck playing the video blasting Lag B’omer messages and thanking the health workers.
The viewing points were Dancing Goats; Yeah! Burger parking lot; Emory Village at the roundabout; Lavista and Briarcliff roads; the old Whole Foods; Peachtree and 17th streets, Atlanta Medical Center and various other hospitals.
Rachel Lapidus recalled, “It was exciting to see friends and community members after so long! The unity and excitement was palpable from car to car. Kids decorated their cars with messages of thanks to the healthcare workers. Many different age groups joined the parade.”
Motorcyclist Wayne Markman said, “When I first heard about plans for the Lag B’omer Parade, I thought it sounded like a great idea! Several members of our local Jewish motorcycle club (Sabra Riders) enjoyed the Chanukah parade last year. It was great to have a position of honor in the Lag B’Omer procession, right behind the rabbi’s car and ahead of the video truck. I was proud to fly my two large (3 foot by 5-foot) parade flags from my motorcycle, an American flag and an Israeli flag. This time, our mission was to honor our local healthcare workers in the midst of this pandemic, as well as to spread a message of hope and good cheer to the people of Atlanta. It was a perfect day for a parade!”
Lag B’omer represents the cessation of mourning after Passover and counting the omer, a period of 49 days during which there are no weddings, haircuts, live music or joyful celebrations. Often Lag B’omer is celebrated with bonfires and barbeques. “Lag” numerically translates to 33, and B’omer marks the 33rd day of the counting of the omer, according to Chabad.org.
In describing the holiday, Chabad.org writer Yerachmiel Tilles compared Lag B’omer Israeli style in Mount Meron, a sleepy mountain area by Northern “artsy” Sfad, to the “Jewish Woodstock” with 250,000 festive Israelis. The highway is closed near the tomb of Shimon bar Yochia, the leader of the mystic kabbalah who passed away on this day. Some celebrate by eating carob and eggs, foods that sustained Shimon and his son who were hiding from the Romans.
In the 1950s the parade was held in New York. From there it caught on as an occasion to flaunt Judaism in front of the neighbors “out of the alleyway into the spotlight giving a forum to march with pride in the center of town,” wrote Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum, Chabad, Victoria, Australia.
Additionally, to honor frontline medical workers, Chabad Intown is delivering 20 challahs weekly on Fridays.