Jewish communities across the country are gearing up for Lag B’Omer, the festival that marks the anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, a 2nd century mystic who authored the Kabbalistic source text known as the Zohar.

Beginning this year on Saturday evening and continuing through the following Sunday, Lag B’Omer – in keeping with Bar Yochai’s instruction to celebrate the day as heralding the dissemination of the Torah’s esoteric teachings – is characterized throughout the world by massive bonfires, outdoor celebrations and, in a modern practice instituted by the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, Jewish unity parades.

Joining their counterparts in thousands of locations across the globe, North American Chabad-Lubavitch centers are planning a host of events large and small to mark the joyous occasion.

In Cincinnati, Ohio, Rabbi Berel Cohen, youth director of the Chabad Jewish Center in the suburb of Blue Ash, expects 300 people for the annual community barbeque featuring a BMX bike stunt show, moon bounce and live music.

“Our family really enjoys the events, and we get a feeling of unity when we’re there,” said Leah Politzer of Cincinnati. “We look forward to it, especially this year.”

Chabad of Roslyn, N.Y., is planning a community picnic and baseball game for the holiday, while Chabad of Northwest Metro Denver in Colorado is organizing a six-mile bike ride and bonfire to celebrate.

Near the beaches of Atlantic City, N.J., local Chabad Houses are organizing a day of outdoor activities at a local historic park, with a barbeque, field games, bonfire and hiking.

“I love sitting around the bonfire, telling children’s stories,” said Iris Levy of Atlantic City. “It’s nice to be outside and have activities for the children to celebrate.”

In such disparate communities as Asheville, N.C., and Bend, Ore., barbeques and children’s games will be the order of the day, and in Chesterfield, Mo., locals will celebrate Lag B’Omer in a local park with Rabbi Avi Rubenfeld and an assortment of activities he’s arranged, including a drum circle, storytelling, bow-and-arrow workshop and kite flying.

“I see the event as a demonstration of the continued growth of Chabad in our community,” said Todd Blumoff of Chesterfield. “More and more people are benefiting from the expansion of our Jewish community here [and such events as these].”

A Rise Above BMX team member performs a 360-degree back flip.
A Rise Above BMX team member performs a 360-degree back flip.

On a larger scale, close to 10 Chabad Houses in Arizona will unite for their annual Lag B’Omer parade. Close to 600 people are expected in the heart of Scottsdale for a day of music, barbequing, games and train rides.

Chabad of Barrington, R.I., plans to caravan to Brooklyn, N.Y., for a giant children’s parade through the neighborhood of Crown Heights. The parade will feature more than 50 floats depicting scenes of Jewish life, as well as marching bands, clowns and live music. Last year, Rabbi Moshe Laufer traveled with three packed 12-passenger vans to the event.

Chabad of Western Monmouth County in New Jersey will hold its annual Walk 4 Friends event on the holiday, uniting more than 1,000 volunteers, families and children with special needs for a fundraiser benefitting the local Friendship Circle. Following the walk will be a trampoline show, moon bounces, petting zoo and crafts.

“It’s a wonderful day for children with special needs and families,” said Randy Goldberg of Manalpan, who helped to organize the event. “It’s a day where we can support and celebrate each other in a non-judgmental setting.”

And in South Florida, more than 10,000 are expected for the yearly Jewish Unity Parade and children’s rally, which will feature 50 rides, live music, carnival foods and the participation of dozens of Hebrew schools from across the region.

Up north in Wisconsin, four of the state’s Chabad Houses are putting the finishing touches on their annual parade, which is expected to draw close to 400 people for an extreme motorcycle show, children’s rally and picnic.

“It’s really a joint effort of our community,” said Rabbi Moshe Rappoport, director of Chabad of Mequon. “I hope that it gives everyone there a sense of Jewish unity and pride, and a greater understanding of the meaning and message of Lag B’Omer.”