By COLlive reporter
The tannaitic sage Rabbi Simon bar Yochai never visited Moscow, but his presence was clearly felt on the streets of the Russian capital on Sunday.
Thousands of Jews of all ages and backgrounds parading in honor of Lag BaOmer was a sight that moved many in the community that still recall the Soviet oppression.
Russia’s military band was brought to play Jewish songs as elders and children, students of the large educational network run by Chabad, celebrated their heritage.
No details were spared in the planning by the local branch of Lubavitch Youth Organization, led by Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar and directed by Rabbi Schneor Halperin.
The event began outside the Marina Roscha Synagogue and Jewish Community Center when a fire was lit to honor the memory and legacy of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai whose yartzeit is a joyous day.
A luxury vehicle then ushered in the 3-year-old children whose hair was cut, as customary on this day. Each of the children received a yarmulka and a pair tzitzis with their names on it.
Rabbi Moshe Rochlin of the Chomesh Institute in Moscow, who emceed the gathering, announced the beginning of the parade to the park locally known as the “#1 Children’s Park.”
Students and members of the Jewish community marched behind grand floats with Jewish displays of art, holding signs promoting their Jewish pride and commitment to the Torah.
Waiting for them at the park was a grand carnival with rides, jumping castles and music. Yeshiva bochurim assisted men with putting on Tefillin.
Rabbi Halperin thanked all those who helped with the event’s success, including the Yeshiva bochurim, students of the Bnos Menachem girls school and Rabbi Mordechai Weisberg, Director of Marina Roscha.
“As I was watching the crowd, I wished that Lag BaOmer would never end,” Halperin said. “I have no doubt that what the children have seen will stay with them forever.”