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Great Jewish Family Fest, Canceled Due To Coronavirus, Turns Into West Ridge Car Parade

The parade will mark the Jewish holiday of Lag B'omer, which commemorates an ancient plague that killed 24,000 Jews.

Bonfires are typically lit to mark the Jewish holiday of Lag B'omer.
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WEST RIDGE — Lag B’omer, the festive holiday marking the end of an ancient plague, is usually honored with a large celebration known as the Great Jewish Family Fest.

But with the festival canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic and Illinois’ stay at home order, some of Chicago’s Jewish residents will celebrate the holiday with a social distance-friendly car parade Tuesday.

About 80 decorated cars and trucks will parade through the city’s Far North Side and nearby suburbs beginning at 11 a.m. Tuesday in West Ridge, said Rabbi Yosef Moscowitz, executive director of Lubavitch Chabad of Illinois.

The exact route is not being disclosed in an effort to ward off public crowds, but the parade will hit residential areas in West Ridge, Rogers Park, North Park and suburbs like Lincolnwood, Glenview and Northbrook.

The idea is to bring some of the holiday festivity to neighbors stuck at home dealing with the coronavirus, Moscowitz said.

“We wanted to find a way to creatively celebrate, and make sure it was safe and socially distant,” he said.

West Ridge is home to one of the city’s biggest coronavirus clusters, and the neighborhood’s sizable Jewish Orthodox community has been hit hard. Chicago’s coronavirus outbreak hit during an inopportune time in the Jewish calendar, with major holidays falling right before and after the stay at home order was enacted.

The parade will hopefully help Jewish families mark the holiday while staying safe at home, Moscowitz said.

After announcing the event, entries for parade floats went almost instantly, Moscowitz said. Parade participants are decorating their cars, giving families a safe and creative quarantine activity.

“It’s a beautiful project, where parents can work with their kids and give them a creative outlet,” Moscowitz said.

The parade will be led by a truck decked out in LED lights and playing music. The music will hopefully catch the ears’ of neighbors, who will come to their windows and porches to catch the parade, Moscowitz said. Billboard trucks will depict images related to Lag B’omer.

Lag B’omer marks the end of a 1st Century plague that killed 24,000 Jewish students. It is meant as a celebratory day during what is otherwise a period of mourning for Jewish people know as Omer.

With the current pandemic, and its impact on local Jewish communities, it is as important as ever to spread the holiday’s message of hope, Moscowitz said.

“We’re hoping to bring joy with this event, and say that there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

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