A Sephardic Lag B’Omer

MAGEN DAVID CONGREGANT SAMY YMAR AUCTIONS OFF A CANDLE DURING THE SYNAGOGUE’S LAG B’OMER CELEBRATION. PHOTO BY SAMANTHA COOPER

Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day between Passover and Shavuot, is traditionally celebrated with bonfires, parades and weddings.

But at Magen David Sephardic Congregation, the celebration is on the 34th day.

Lag B’Omer celebrates the life of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai 2,000 years ago,
explained congregant Samy Ymar. It also marks the end of a plague that killed thousands of Rabbi Akiva’s disciples.

But while the plague ended on the 33rd day, Ymar said, the deaths didn’t end until the 34th.
Standing In the sanctuary, Ymar, who has been attending the synagogue for 50 years, set up dozens of candles, each tagged with the name of a rabbi or another Jewish figure, to be sold to congregants at auction for the benefit of Magen David.

Nearby, Benson and Erin Goldstein of Rockville sit among the Israeli flags and blue and white streamers, waiting for the celebration to begin. It’s their first Lag B’Omer with the congregation. Around 40 other people are in attendance.

“Learning to be bi-cultural is amazing,” said Benson, explaining that he and his wife are Ashkanazi Jews, not Sephardic.

“Everybody has a different way of celebrating,” Ymar said, adding that it brings the congregation together, honors the rabbis of the past and honors the future, because some of the proceeds from the auction go to children’s programs.

The auction was followed by a home-cooked celebratory meal of Sephardic and Israeli dishes, enjoyed at white-clothed tables.

Harry Abadi, who recently moved to the area from Boston, said, “There was a sweetness to tonight. It was nice to see people honoring each other.”

“One thing that’s beautiful about Judaism, no matter if we’re Ashkenazi or Sephardic, is if I come here I feel at home,” said Boris Chumau, of Washington. “I don’t know anyone here. I didn’t know what to expect, but I had a great time because I’m with fellow Jews.”

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