By Jonah Rothstein, Retreats Manager and Shaina Abrams-Kornblum, Eastern Community Manager

This year, Lag B’Omer starts in the evening on Monday, May 11th, and goes until sundown on Tuesday, May 12th. “Lag” is the Hebrew letters lamed and gimel, which in gematria (a system where Hebrew letters represent numbers) equals 33. So Lag B’Omer is the 33rd day of the Omer count. The Omer is the period of 7 weeks between Pesach and Shavuot. It is a day of happiness during the Omer which is typically considered a time of mourning. 

Lag B’Omer is a celebration of Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai, an important 2nd century sage, in honor of his revealing the secrets of the Zohar, the core text of mystical Judaism. It is a common practice to celebrate Lag B’Omer by lighting bonfires in honor of the light that Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai brought to the world. 

Bonfires have become a very important part of the celebration of Lag B’Omer so we wanted to share how you can make this into a virtual program for your community members. Bonfires offer an opportunity for connection, storytelling, and nostalgia so we would like to invite you to create a virtual bonfire to celebrate Lag B’Omer.

We want to make sure you are equipped to host a storytelling program so we broke it down for you below!

Before the program:

  • Create a signup sheet so that you know who wants to share a story and who just wants to attend.
  • Reach out to individuals and ask if they would like to share a short story at the event. Personal outreach is key!
  • Stories come in many shapes and sizes, some stories may be serious and some may be funny. Make sure you let your storytellers know that they can share things written by authors, poets, or even comedians.
  • Set a theme beforehand to guide your community members to find or write stories with a common topic. Some of the themes of Lag B’Omer are a perfect place to start. These themes include resilience, purification, perseverance, and overcoming adversity.
  • Give your storytellers a time limit. Stories can be 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or however long you think would work best for your community.
  • A story arc may help your community members craft a story. Here are some tips for how to tell a story with a well thought a narrative arc that you can share:
    • Incorporate classic plot arcs – use the last movie you saw as an example
    • The 5 W’s: who, what, when, where, and why.
    • Keep the middle of your story exciting to ensure that your story maintains momentum.
  • Before people begin to sign in for the event, share your screen and have your virtual fireplace already “roaring” by signing into Netflix and searching “fireplace”. To really set the mood, you can invite your community members to bring a blanket and light a candle before the event begins. We all know that there is something magical about being around the bonfire so do your best to help set the mood.

During the program:

  • Choose a host who will introduce the storytellers and keep time. This can be one of the Residents or MHWOW Host or a community member.
  • Set expectations around the privacy of your storytelling event when everyone gets cozy before you start. Here are some examples:
    • All attendees should be muted during the telling of a story. 
    • Clapping is allowed – unmute yourself when the story is over to show support.
    • The chatbox should remain silent until the story is over.
    • Some people may want to share stories that should not be repeated. Ask your attendees to respect the wishes of your storytellers. 
  • Don’t forget to take some screenshots of your virtual bonfire to post on social media and the Mintranet.

After the program:

  • Send a personalized thank you note to your community members who shared their stories. 
  • Invite your community members to host their own storytelling event.

Storytelling on Lag B’Omer is an awesome way to activate your community virtually. The light of the bonfire, representing the light that Rabbi Shimon bar-Yochai brought into the world, is a powerful image that feels particularly relevant right now. Sharing stories around a bonfire is a timeless bonding activity that we can reclaim in a Jewish way, as a celebration of Lag B’Omer. 

We hope the message of the stories that you share with your community light up your virtual bonfire and uplift you and your community! Chag Sameach, Happy Lag B’Omer!