It was fourteen years ago that Rabbi Mordechai Jungreis, the Nikelsburger Rebbe, walked out of his beis medrash on Lag B’Omer night and began spontaneously singing and dancing with his followers on the sidewalk, continuing his decades-long tradition of marking the day with joyous celebrations. The leibidic explosion of simcha quickly drew a crowd, with many more joining in the impromptu celebration of Lag B’Omer and the hilula of Rav Shimon Bar Yochai. The number of participants has increased annually since then, and in recent years, thousands have thronged to the Nikelsburg Beis Medrash at 4912 16th Avenue to enjoy a Meron-style Lag B’Omer with Rabbi Jungreis in the heart of Boro Park.
Last year’s Lag B’Omer was a memorable event, with a massive crowd turning out for Maariv just after 9 PM. 16th Avenue was closed off to traffic to accommodate the thousands of participants who filled the entire street, with a separate section set up to accommodate women and girls. Adults poured olive oil given to them by the Rebbe on the pyre and lit candles l’zecher nishmas Rav Shimon Bar Yochai, spreading the revered Tana’s light of Torah even further throughout the world. Children delighted in bow and arrow sets and colorful light up toys sponsored by generous donors, while everyone enjoyed the seemingly endless rows of refreshments and drinks. As the Rebbe lit the massive bonfire with a long braided candle, participants broke out in jubilant song and danced spiritedly to the live band.
Further enhancing the celebration was the presence of numerous noted rabbonim, illustrious roshei yeshiva, prominent community leaders and other well known personalities and entertainers who turned out in honor of Lag B’Omer. For some of the youngest participants, the night also marked a major milestone in their lives as Rabbi Jungreis took the initial snips of their first haircuts and they learned the sweet letters of the Alef Bais while the bonfire burned brightly behind them. Although the air literally crackled with excitement, even more noticeable was the incredible atmosphere of achdus that had thousands of yidden from all walks of life coming together, linking arms and reveling in the true simcha of the moment.
Well known for his hospitality in both Boro Park and, during the summer months, in Woodbourne, Rabbi Jungreis’s welcoming personality and his acceptance of every Jew have made him a beloved community figure and his Lag B’Omer celebration is the highlight of the year for many. For those who are unable to travel to Meron, it captures the essence and energy of this special day and recreates it in on a smaller scale in Brooklyn, with many coming to Boro Park from other areas to take part in this one of a kind experience.
This year’s Lag B’Omer festivities will be held after Maariv on Wednesday, May 22nd, beginning with Rabbi Jungreis’s special nusach for Sefiras Haomer. Numerous luminaries of the Torah world and other highly respected community leaders will be joining in the celebration which will also feature live and exciting entertainment, with record crowds expected to bask in the warmth exuded by the Nikelsburger Rebbe, the fire and the undeniable kedushas hayom as they enjoy a taste of Meron in the heart of Boro Park.