A brand-new playground was the centerpiece of the Lag B’Omer celebration at Chabad of Bethesda.
A jungle gym, two slides and a four-way seesaw, it had a lot in common with other playgrounds. The difference, according to Rabbi Sender Geisinsky, is that it is the byproduct of a miracle.
In early 2020, community member Susie Bibi caught COVID-19. Her illness was so severe that she was intubated and put into an induced coma. She spent seven months in the hospital before recovering enough to be released.
Bibi was at the ceremony to dedicate the playground, built in thanks of her recovery. Joining her was her husband, Reuben Bibi, and his uncle Robert Hedaya. As they listened, Geisinsky told the story of Susie Bibi’s survival, as well as why the playground is a significant marker in her story.
“This is a very special edifice,” Geisinsky said about the playground. “A monument, not to a life that has passed, but for a life that lives on. Not to a legacy, but to a miracle. And so we are really here celebrating life. We are not just here to just dedicate a brand new playground, but to show gratitude to God.”
Geisinsky said that there is a general principle in Judaism that, if a miracle occurs, like the miracle of Chanukah, it should be publicized.
“A miracle occurred, and this playground is dedicated to that,” Geisinsky said. “We want every child who comes into this playground to be able to read the story of the miracle.”
The story is written on a plaque near the playground. During the ceremony, Bibi lifted a curtain off the plaque and read the story of her illness, recovery and of how the playground came to be.
The ceremony “was wonderful,” Reuben Bibi said later. “We can’t ask for more. I was just so happy. It’s a way of showing our gratitude to God, to everyone that prayed for her, the doctors and the rabbi. It’s just tremendous.”
The ceremony included planting a garden next to the playground. Asked why he and Hedaya had chosen to build a playgrounds as thanks for his wife’s recovery, Reuben Bibi said they wanted to provide a place for kids to play and learn.
“Children are our future,” he said. “They’re pure, they’re holy. If they come here and they play, hopefully they’ll continue to go from the playground to the school, they’ll be able to learn and continue down the right path.”
The celebration didn’t stop with the playground dedication. A petting zoo with a donkey, alpaca, goats and chickens delighted children.
“This is a very warm community,” said Chabad of Bethesda member Diana Kozuch. “I thought the ceremony was beautiful and very touching. It was so good to see that [Susie Bibi] is really doing well. And I love the playground for the children. I think they’re going to enjoy that a lot.”