KINGSTON — Some members of the Jewish faith wear their heart right on their sleeve. Others, like those who gathered together in Kingston on Sunday to celebrate the holiday of Lag BaOmer, go the extra mile.
Their collective heart was made manifest in the form of a giant red valentine-shaped float in the back of a flatbed truck, surrounded by hand-painted banners extolling such virtues as wisdom, kindness, generosity and happiness.
Up ahead, girls and boys marched at the front of the procession, hoisting up signs declaring Jewish pride. Behind, three young men wearing kippot sang and laughed, dancing arm-in-arm with Rabbi Pinchus Levitin in the middle of the street.
“This day began almost 2,000 years ago. It commemorates Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the author of the Zohar, the main text for Jewish mysticism, who passed away on this day. It is the 33rd day of the Counting of the Omer, the counting of the days between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot,” Levitin said.
“Before he passed away, he said we shouldn’t be sad he was passing away. We should be happy because he was going directly to God. So ever since then it’s been a a day of celebration. It’s a day of unity,” Levitin said.
The celebratory spirit was indeed on full display as the Lag BaOmer parade snaked its way from the parking lot of the United Hebrew Institute building off 3rd Avenue to the Church Street Playground, where it blossomed into a full-blown festival.
The event was organized by the Bais Menachem Youth Development Program of Wilkes-Barre, in conjunction with Ohav Zedek Synagogue of Wilkes-Barre and Chabad’s Jewish Discovery Center of Clarks Summit. There, families from the Jewish faith and others mingled to enjoy kosher food, kiddie rides, carnival games and live music.
The latter included traditional Hebrew songs, covers of songs by Hasidic reggae artist Matisyahu and a performance by former “America’s Got Talent” contestant David Darwin.
Libbie Hershkop, a mother of three from Kingston, was among those who brought her children to the event.
“It’s great for the kids. They get to see their friends and they have fun all day. But it’s great for all of us. It brings us together and allows us to hang out together as a community,” Hershkop said, before adding with a laugh, “Facebook only gets you so far, right?”