What were they thinking when they invented Lag BaOmer parades? Nearly every Jewish kid in town simultaneously singing off-key while raggle-straggle marching down the main street. Police vans and fire trucks serenading with sirens while marching bands representing every branch of the military compete for attention with a gaudy collection of floats. My childhood memories of these events include politicians and dignitaries speaking for too long, and by the time we finally reached the park you could guarantee they would be running short on soggy salami sandwiches and lukewarm soft drinks for lunch.

At least my parents weren't camera fanatics; I had friends whose folks would think nothing of bringing the whole parade to a shuddering halt while they snapped another dozens pictures of their precious darlings holding aloft banners proclaiming Jewish Pride or Torah: It's The Real Thing—all as the inevitable rain began to cascade from on high.

Is it really worth all the trouble and expense?Is it really worth all the trouble and expense? Would it not make more sense to gather the children around a bonfire, tell them the story of Lag BaOmer, play a few games and then send them home fulfilled? They would be just as happy, the community would have saved a fortune and untold hours of preparation—and we could leave the roads free for traffic.

Jewish Pride

Back in the '50s when the Rebbe invented Lag BaOmer parades, the prevailing attitude was that the practice of religion was very much a private matter. No need to flaunt belief or wear you heart on your sleeve. You do what you need to do, but why do all the neighbors need to know about it?

On the face of it, this attitude makes sense; surely my faith and feelings should be between my Creator and myself. If someone cares enough to approach me I'm happy to share my beliefs with them, but it is their choice to make and it would be impertinent of me to drag them to the trough before they're ready to drink.

A friend of mine, one of the proudest and most dedicated Jews I've known, was of this opinion. He loved our synagogue, wanted it to grow, but just could not bring himself to approach other people to invite them to join the show. The first time I invited him to come door-knocking with me he broke out into a sweat just at the thought of it. He simply could not understand "those exhibitionists who feel it is their calling in life to push their personal views into everyone else's face."

Yet when it came to his own profession he had no such qualms. To advance his personal commercial interests, he was ready at the drop of a business card to glad-hand and cold-call. He clearly was not shy, just reticent when it came to religion.

What happens if they throw a parade and everyone comes?

The village square could well benefit from a show of faithWhen we march our kids down the highway we're teaching them that there is no shame in publicly affirming our belief. We are proud of our passion and willing to share. The village square could well benefit from a show of faith; why should publicity be the exclusive province of scandalmongers and the advertising industry? Football fans hang their scarves proudly out of the car-window and I'm just as willing to leave my tzitzit strings flapping in the breeze.

Those people who hear the parade passing by and come out to join the fun will be welcomed to a world of living Judaism and committed Jews. Their kids will be shown that authenticity has nothing to hide and everything to teach. When they billed the parades as "a salute to Judaism," they dragged Judaism out of the alleyways and into the spotlight and gave us a forum to march with pride into the center of town.