Clowns, chickens, children and thousands of Chabad Chasidim crowded West Pico Boulevard on May 18 for the Great Parade, an annual celebration of Lag b’Omer in Pico-Robertson.
The event, which was made up of floats from Chabad schools and synagogues around Los Angeles, local music groups, fire engines, police cars and acrobatic artists, commemorated the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer.
For 49 days between the second night of Passover and Shavuot, Jews count the Omer. Weddings, haircuts and the playing of musical instruments are forbidden during all of these days except on Lag b’Omer itself.
Since the 1940s, the Chabad-Lubavitch movement has held Lag b’Omer parades. Although the tradition started in Crown Heights in Brooklyn, it has taken on a life of its own in Los Angeles.
“It’s a show of Jewish unity,” said Shimon Shain, the founder of Darko Learning Academy, a Chabad Montessori school in Pico-Robertson. “It’s nice to see all the Jewish children get to see the kids from other schools. It’s beautiful to see the unity displayed here.”
According to Shain, the students at Darko constructed their own float, which they called “Torah Around the World.” It featured various landmarks from across the globe, including the Statue of Liberty, the Kotel and Big Ben.
“[There were] many different landmarks to show that the Torah is reaching every corner of the world,” Shain said.
Another float in the parade — which took place at the same time the Celebrate Israel festival was going on at Rancho Park — presented the scene of a kosher butcher, complete with a student dressed as a shochet (ritual slaughterer) and live chickens and ducks. There also was one with Jewish renditions of traditional games, such as “Mashiachopoly” and “Sorry! The Game of Teshuvah.”
Adding to the fun were students in marching bands, bagpipers from Pasadena, and groups of children and teens dressed as dancing chickens and clowns.
Carol Tzippi-Arias, whose grandchildren participated in the parade, said that there was a real sense of ahavat Yisrael (love of the Jewish people).
“This was a wonderful family experience. There was warmth and excitement. Every child here had a part in making a float and was so excited to wave to [their families] and see not only their own floats, but also everybody else’s,” she said.
“There was a real feeling as if it was everybody’s birthday party. All the floats were about good things [like] doing mitzvahs and helping other people.”
Friendship Circle Los Angeles, Chabad of South La Cienega, Chabad of Santa Monica, Chabad of Cheviot Hills, Cheder Menachem boys school, Chabad Westside Hebrew School, and other area synagogues and schools also joined in the parade.
The parade started at 11 a.m. in front of the Chabad Garden School, located at West Pico Boulevard and Doheny Drive, where rabbis offered blessings and speeches from the bimah in front of a picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. They also played videos of children’s entertainer Uncle Moishy and a speech from the late Rebbe himself.
Joseph Ober, a local photographer who attended the event, said the Great Parade was a wonderful experience.
“It’s great for there to be communitywide events like this that draw from all corners of the Los Angeles Jewish world,” he said. “The city allows for ethnic expression, and it’s wonderful that Chabad takes the reins to make it happen.”