The Lag B’omer fire on May 3 burned bright and robust — and hot. At 80-something degrees, the night was also hot. And so the group of Jews clustered at the edges of the backyard, generally avoiding the fire, except to roast marshmallows.
Thirty-three days into the counting of the omer — the 49-day period between Passover and Shavuot — Moishe House Columbia Heights in Washington offered up a traditional bonfire, but with perhaps less-than-traditional accoutrement — aka s’mores makings.
The fire reminded Daniel Legum, 32, of the year he spent in Tel Aviv where there were fires everywhere for Lag B’omer, a minor holiday when a period of semi-mourning is lifted. The vibe at Moishe House was pretty different than Tel Aviv, however, he said.
“I’ve been to a lot of Moishe House events now,” the Bethesda resident said. “I’ve been going since 2013. I guess what gets me to keep going is I get to meet a whole bunch of people and find others in the [Jewish] community.”
It was a common theme. Many who attended the bonfire were less interested in Lag B’omer than in connecting with others in the Jewish community. For Rachel Lewis, 25, and Moriah Petty, 26, the event was part of their effort to be more involved in the Jewish community.
“We went to Purim together at Sixth and I and we just really thought we should do more of this,” Lewis said. “So I find the Jewish things and we go.”
It’s just “nice to have a community,” Petty added, where Jews can come together and have something that connects them.
As people trickled in, the bonfire was off to a bit of a slow start. But helpful bystander intervention from Daniel Vinokuroff, 28, helped it catch on.
Vinokuroff moved to Washington two years ago and found Moishe House last year. It’s become one of the main ways he’s involved with the Jewish community. It’s not only a great way to meet people, he said, but a way to get “a different perspective on life.”
Kenzie, 25, who didn’t want her last name used, lives around the corner from Moishe House and comes whenever she can. She is in the last stages of converting to Judaism and said celebrations and events at Moishe House gave her an entry point to the young Jewish community.
“When I first came I couldn’t even pronounce ‘Moishe,’” she said,” but it’s so accessible. No one’s judgmental. I love it.”