Sylvia Witaschek | WJW Staff
Ten families with young children gathered recently on Agudas Achim Congregation’s Jerusalem-inspired playground to celebrate Lag B’Omer. While the parents mingled, their children took in the replica of the Tower of David, said to be 25 feet tall.
“The arches are reminiscent of the alleys and doorways in the Old City of Jerusalem,” said Jen Halpern, director of young family engagement at the Alexandria synagogue.
The event also included bring your own picnic dinner, an art project and a bonfire for s’mores making.
Alexandria resident Stephanie Harris knows the playground well. Her 3-year-old, Molly, attends the synagogue’s preschool. Molly likes the Tower of David and the Noah’s Ark castle, Stephanie said.
There’s also a sukkah, a child-sized synagogue, a spinning dreidel and yellow steps that represent a menorah on which children can hop from one to the next.
Hazel Sharwarko, who is 20 months old, “likes the playground, the swings, the slides,” said her dad, Chris Sharwarko. “She goes around in a loop.”
Dinner and craft time were next. Meanwhile Halpern had built a campfire in the parking lot. The families gathered and the group counted the omer, the number of days it was since Passover on the way to Shavuot.
Then, it was time to make s’mores. Parents were handed long wooden sticks and marshmallows, graham crackers, chocolate and, most importantly, wipes. That last item came in handy because of all the chocolate and marshmallow the kids got over their faces. Stephanie Harris called it a “good time.”
It was the first time the young families got together for Lag B’Omer, Halpern said.
And was the event a success? Melissa Weinstock, from the group Growing Jewish Families and Agudas Achim’s member services, replied, “Were the families talking with each other? Did they stay?” The answer was “Yes” in both cases.
According to Weinstock, the true test will be if families want to keep in touch.
Harris said she had a good time and enjoyed watching the kids play, sitting back and talking with other Jewish parents and roasting the marshmallows. “The kids had a great time. The biggest selling point is the playground,” she said.
Did everyone stay? The event was to last until 6:30 p.m. A storm came through around 6:25, and everyone left. Halpern put the fire out and left as well.