Jewish Student Union Honors Harvest Season With Sukkah

This past Tuesday, Andover’s Jewish Student Union (JSU) built a Sukkah in honor of the Jewish harvest holiday of Sukkot. Jewish and non-Jewish students alike indulged in pizza and sukkah building. Jonathan Adler ’08, Co-President of JSU, said, “I think it was a great way to educate the community [about Jewish customs] while having a good time.” Naomi Sobelson ’08, Co-President of JSU, estimates that over 50 people attended the event, which took place on the lawn between Pearson and Commons. Sobelson said, “Our goal was to bring a fun holiday to campus that could engage Jews and non-Jews alike.” Aaron Sage ’09, a Lower Representative for JSU, said, “It definitely reminds me of building a sukkah at my old temple.” JSU wanted to allow Jewish students to celebrate the holiday in a convenient manner. The sukkah is a physical reminder of the harvest holiday. The JSU also plans to hand out apple cider and doughnuts during conference period this Tuesday in front of the Sukkah to welcome Jewish students to the sukkah and to inform non-Jewish students about its significance. “Sukkah” in Hebrew translates literally into “booth” and is built to represent the temporary huts the Israelites dwelled in while wandering in the desert for 40 years after their departure from Egypt. It is supposed to reflect God’s benevolence for providing the Jews with everything they needed during this time. The sukkah must fulfill specific requirements: people must be able to see the stars from within, and rain must be able to enter it. Traditionally, Jews will spend most of their time during the seven-day holiday of Sukkot in the sukkah, even eating and sleeping there. Rabbi Neil Kominsky said, “Since [the sukkah] has a fragile and limited roof, it is a reminder of when the Israelites left Egypt and had to put together flimsy huts.” The sukkah is also supposed to symbolize the transience of life and remind Jews that the only real security in life originates from faith in God. The JSU’s sukkah is a reusable sukkah made of metal bars, a plastic covering, and a wooden mat for the ceiling. It took students less than an hour to assemble the structure. To add to the harvest motif, the sukkah was also decorated with gourds and cornstalks. Rabbi Kominksy, Andover’s Jewish chaplain said, “I think [building a sukkah on campus] is important on two levels…Some students use the sukkah for observance….[Jewish] students who may not normally celebrate Sukkot may decide to take part. [The sukkah] is concrete rather than just ideas.” This year JSU is working on offering a broader range of programs aimed towards the entire community, rather than only Jewish students and faculty. In addition to Tuesday’s event, JSU has already sponsored apples and honey sticks at lunch in honor of Rosh Hashanah and is currently planning a “Seinfeld Fest” hosted by Dr. Richard Keller, school physician. Sobelson said, “The JSU is off to a great start this fall and we’re going to maintain our high energy.” The sukkah will stay up for two weeks. Any students are allowed and welcome to enter the sukkah. At the end of Sukkot, before Simchat Torah, the Jewish holiday celebrating the completion of reading the Torah, the sukkah will be dismantled.