By Aryeh Weinstein
As a longtime resident of Lakewood, I have watched with pride as our community has grown by leaps and bounds, the kol Torah resonating louder and louder with every passing year.
Finding ourselves as we are now in the midst of sefiras ha’omer, I am both mystified and pained by the news that a Lag BaOmer event for Lakewood-area children that was scheduled to be held at the FirstEnergy Park parking lot was banned based on what appears to be misinformation.
I personally have close ties to Beis Medrash Govoha and its esteemed roshei yeshiva and appreciate full well that the importance of our community’s long standing policies disallowing concerts or holding any events of any sort in the stadium.
But this Lag BaOmer event, organized jointly by several local Chabads and sponsored by respected local institutions and businesses, was constructed with all of those standards in mind.
Scheduled to take place on Friday afternoon after school, this event is taking place in the parking lot, not within the stadium itself, with a program of Tehillim on behalf of acheinu Bnei Yisroel, a puppet show and a story teller. And while yes, there will be some live zemiros with Benny Friedman, it is just one of several components of the program, making it difficult to even to classify this as a concert.
Ironically, the program is quite similar to that of another event being held in the same location on Thursday night, one that for whatever reason, has been deemed as being in keeping with community standards.
I can only surmise that this beautiful celebration was incorrectly described to the roshei yeshiva as a concert in the stadium, given the letter that was sent out to Lakewood parents urging them not to send their children. And it is exceedingly painful to hear that people masquerading as the event organizers have been making robocalls falsely suggesting that Chabad messaging will be at play here, when nothing could be farther from the truth.
The goal behind this event was very simple. In keeping with the time-honored tradition of celebrating Lag BaOmer, why not create a program that all community children could enjoy, one that balances Torah with fun, while holding strong to the values and standards that define who we are? It is a sad day in Lakewood when there are those who are intentionally seeking to be divisive and are deliberately misrepresenting facts to our revered roshei yeshiva during a period when we should be focusing on achdus and Rabbi Akiva’s timeless message of v’ahavta l’reyacha kamocha.
I can only hope that this mistake will be rectified on behalf of our children, who should have the opportunity to celebrate Lag BaOmer with Torah-true simcha.