SCoJeC’s LaG b’Omer extravaganza really lived up to the name! SCoJeC planned the event in partnership with Enjoy, the youth wing of the Glasgow Orthodox Synagogues, Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation, and Forestry Commission Scotland, in the beautiful Vogrie Country Park in Midlothian, and it turned out a huge success. More than 170 people from Glasgow, Edinburgh, and much further afield – including many children – had a fantastic time, making (and using) bows and arrows, listening to story-tellers, and playing with fire (or at least watching an expert do so!).
"It's just good to get out into the woods", said one participant. "Far too few Jewish events involve the outdoors." Another commented, "This was a superb day, great activities on offer, brilliantly organised, staff (both Jewish community and woodland leaders) were all delightfully friendly, and it was an all-round resounding success!"
A wide range of activities were on offer, including willow craft, wild food and campfire cooking, pond dipping, storytelling, dream-catcher making, guided walks. Children were also able to participate in tree identification sessions that included being blindfolded, spun round, and then guessing which tree they had been taken to. Even Rabbi Eli couldn’t resist the chance to indulge in a bit of tree climbing!
One of the biggest hits was the bow and arrow making sessions, the results of which were subsequently put to use in the archery competition. Learning how to make a fire was also very popular, with everyone foraging for materials to burn. Once the gathering-in was finished, ranger Dougie produced a flint and, together with some of the children, soon got the fire going.
After working up a healthy appetite, everyone tucked in to a fantastic barbecue cooked by chef Peter and his daughter Roisin, who had been working since 6am to be ready to feed the multitudes. A host of volunteers served the food, while the queues were entertained by Tom the Fire Juggler.
Rabbi Eli had no problem getting a minyan for Minchah, the afternoon prayer service, after which, in the beautiful forest setting, he gave a talk about the meaning of LaG B’Omer.
When we first started to discuss this event, the Forestry Commission suggested a maximum of 60 participants. When pushed, they agreed to 85, but we were hesitant as that would have been our largest ever event. Then Rabbi Eli asked if Enjoy could join in, and we realised we might get 100 – and then suddenly our numbers started creeping up and up! So we set up a waiting list while our activities coordinator checked he had enough staff and activities to keep the additional numbers active and engaged. In the end we had around 178 people there, including around 90 children under 16, almost 3 times our previous biggest event – and definitely 3 times as much fun!
"It is really remarkable that you managed to create a programme with exciting, interesting, and enjoyable activities, not only for the different age groups that each of our three children belong to, but also for both their parents," said one participant. "We truly ALL had a great time. The activities were fun and educational, the activity leaders fabulous, and it seemed you had really covered all the bases: the help with directing us to the parking, and the help with the token at the entrance, the beautifully and creatively prepared signs ("Look Ima – Hebrew writing in Scotland!!"), and the delicious and very generous BBQ (the food never ran out!). BTW how did you get the weather to behave so nicely?!"
Many thanks to our volunteer stewards who helped out at the various activities, made sure everyone got a chance to participate, and picked up the litter, as well as to Forestry Commission Scotland, who generously provided funding for the environmental activities and the buses from Giffnock and Edinburgh, and to Netherlee and Clarkston Charitable Trust and the Jewish Youth Fund (Glasgow), who provided additional funding.
The last word goes to another participant, who told us that “The event was simply excellent. We all had a brilliant time, everyone was relaxed, the kids were in seventh heaven with the variety of activities on offer, and I absolutely loved the fact that the various communities came together in such a harmonious way.”
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