Convening, Collaborating, and Innovating to Bring an Outdoor Holiday Indoors

Sarah Rabin Spira, Manager, PJ Library

Lag B'OnlineIn a typical year, Lag B’Omer (the 33rd Day of the Omer) is celebrated outdoors with picnics, bonfires, and hiking. It is a fun holiday, a moment of respite during the Omer, the 49-day period of “mini-mourning” that begins on the second day of Passover.

For modern-day families, there is also a need for a respite during these weeks of lockdown, physical distancing, and worrying about future food supplies. Weeks of the same routine become unbearable without incorporating rituals that honor the holidays and connect us to others.

With this in mind, The Jewish Federation and PJ Library® were determined to transform this year’s Lag B’Omer holiday into the Lag B’Online celebration for our community.

Lag B’Online was a collaboration of 11 partners that came together to offer an enriching and engaging virtual experience. While ordinarily, PJ Library celebrates Lag B’Omer with bonfires in public parks that are cosponsored by local organizations and attended by people who live in the area, convening online enabled us to break down geographic boundaries and bring people from throughout our community together.

Our itinerary for the event gave each household an opportunity and the guidance to be creative. Families built their own indoor forts or tents from chairs, pillows and blankets and some made pretend campfires from such as paper towel rolls, construction paper, and scarves. To continue the Lag B’Omer celebrations beyond the program, we offered suggestions to make a trail mix snack (using random items in their pantry) and s’mores in the oven (as campfires are not practical in most homes!). Archery, a key part of Lag B’Omer celebrations, was adapted for indoor play with suggestions for using cardboard, masking tape, , and paper to create target-type games that are safe for family valuables. And as with all good campfires, there was a spirited singalong, led by educators. After the program, we sent all families a nature scavenger hunt guide with local flora and fauna to find during an outdoor family walk.

The program offered a mix of a synchronous experience—gathering families at a specific time and place for a shared Jewish learning opportunity—and asynchronous activities—offering families viable options to celebrate Lag B’Omer on their own in a time of social distancing.

By working in an online format, we were able to partner with organizations from all corners of the Greater Washington area that usually are confined to meeting families where they live. We are so grateful to the Edlavitch DCJCC; Love & Religion: An Interfaith Couples Workshop for Jews and their Partners; Rhythm ‘n’ Ruach; Pozez JCC of Northern Virginia’s Growing Jewish Families in Northern Virginia; Camp Achva at Pozez JCC; the Bender JCC of Greater Washington; HTAA – Har Tzeon-Agudath Achim; Capital Camps; and Gesher Jewish Day School. This event was made possible through the Marion Usher Fund for Interfaith Programs at the EDCJCC.