Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Thousands will attend annual bonfire in KJ 

Thousands of Satmar Hasidic visitors are expected to pour into Kiryas Joel next Sunday for an annual bonfire in the village center for Lag Baomer, a festive holiday honoring a revered rabbinical sage who died about 1,900 year ago and who wrote parts of the Talmud and other sacred Jewish texts.

The bonfire usually starts after dark but is scheduled begin at 6:30 p.m. this year “because of the logistical difficulties of such huge crowds converging on such a small village,” organizers said in a press release inviting media coverage of the event. The announcement was accompanied by photos and video clips of past celebrations that show a sea of black-clad attendees packed into the square and on bleachers beside Kiryas Joel’s main synagogue.

The press release called Kiryas Joel’s Lag Baomer celebration the largest of its kind in the U.S., and offered this description of what happens: “Traditionally, a large platform is prepared, wood is piled in the center and large amounts of oil are poured on the wood. Slow songs of devotion are sung, and then the Satmar Rebbe ascends the platform and lights the bonfire using a large torch. Immediately, the mood changes from quiet fervor to joyous and festive dancing. Masses of Hasidim dance in the streets of Kiryas Joel for hours afterwards.”


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