Students at Brandeis may have built the largest sukkah in the Boston area, at 1,350 square feet.
Local youth groups mark holiday with community events
As the community enjoys the holiday of Sukkot, synagogues, colleges and Jewish groups around the Greater Boston area are involved in an array of innovative festive programs catering specifically to young people.You won’t sit in a more eye-catching sukkah than the one currently attracting big crowds at Harvard Hillel. Jewish students there claim it’s the largest octagonal-shaped sukkah in the world. Michael Simon, Harvard Hillel’s director of programming, said: “We don’t know if there are any other octagonal sukkot, and we have no independent verification although I can verify that it is eight sided. We stand by that claim until proven otherwise.”
Elsewhere, the Chabad at Brandeis believes it may have errected the largest sukkah in the Greater Boston area. Rabbi Peretz Chein of the Chabad House at Brandeis says its temporary dwelling, which was 105 square feet in 2002, will be 1,350 square feet this year. He said: “We believe it may be the largest free-standing sukkah in Boston to host Sukkot dinner.”
Both organizations have the same goal with their large sukkot. Chein explains: “At the Chabad House we give students a ‘Jewish home experience,’ which is the most effective and relevant form of Judaism. The large sukkah is a place where all students from extremely diverse backgrounds come together and are at home.”
Brandeis students built the sukkah themselves. Emily Silbergeld, a Brandeis student who helped build the Chabad House’s sukkah, said: “It really shows the importance of student involvement in making things happen. There’s such a sense of family. Students get involved and stay involved because they see Chabad as a home from home.”
Besides its sizable sukkah, the Harvard Hillel is planning other events, including Sukkat Salaam, a joint dinner between Hillel and the Harvard Islamic Society to celebrate Ramadan and Sukkot. “A very important aspect of Sukkot is that you welcome friends, guests, and strangers into your sukkah,” said Simon. “We wanted to fulfill the meaning of Sukkot, which is really to open the flaps of your tent wide and expand our community.”
In addition to student events, programs for the entire community are being planned. A Sukkah-Fest in Downtown Boston at Faneuil Hall, organized by the Chabads of Swampscott, Andover and Lexington, will feature a large sukkah, live music by Pey Dalid and glatt kosher food. “It’s an opportunity to feel good about the holiday and also give people a sense of community,” said Rabbi Yossi Lipsker, spiritual leader of Chabad Lubavitch of the North Shore. “People can come together and give their children a sense that they can walk out into the world and still enjoy Sukkot.” Sukkah-Fest, which was organized with the assistance of Congressmen Marty Meehan, hopes to become an annual event.
Another concert open to all members of the community will feature Shotei Hanevuah, or The Fools of Prophecy, an Israeli Middle Eastern rock band and is being sponsored by the Harvard Hillel. Avi Poupko, the Hillel’s campus rabbi, has seen Shotei Hanevuah perform in Israel 15 times. “They are a new generation of Israeli musicians who are deeply connected to their Jewish identity, which is a new trend for Israeli musicians,” said Poupko.
Sukkot, the Feast of the Tabernacles, is a seven-day holiday commemorating the 40-year wanderings of the Jews in the desert, during which they lived in huts, or sukkot.