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Smith Students Celebrate Sukkot

A Report by Sofia Walker '11

Sukkot, a Jewish holiday, was celebrated at Smith from September 23 - 30, 2010. It is commemorated in part by building a fragile structure. Above is the one built this year the Jewish community at Smith.

Walking by Helen Hills Hills Chapel recently, one might have noticed a new structure at its side. While ephemeral, this building was important: it was a sukkah, built by Smith students to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. The holiday commemorates the 40 years spent by the Israelites wandering the desert, with no more permanent shelter than such a hut. Sukkot, or the Feast of Booths, is celebrated with the building of small shelters, in which all meals are supposed to be eaten during the seven days of the holiday.

At Smith, however, students generally balance meals in the dining halls with meals in the sukkah. Mia Terkowitz '11, one of the heads of Hillel, the Jewish Student Organization, said that this Sukkot, "I tended to eat with my friends in the dining hall and then save some food to eat later in the sukkah." Observing the holiday while attending classes can be challenging.

But in spite of the occasional tensions between religious obligation and academic duty, "Sukkot is a fun holiday," said Mia. The fun begins with the building and decorating of the Sukkah after Yom Kippur. The Smith sukkah was made of bamboo, and filled with hay bales, pumpkins, and stalks of corn, to celebrate the harvest. Then comes the eating. One Sukkot, Mia made a chocolate feast for a friend. "I think that was the last time I tried to make chocolate-chip apple pie." Sounds like something worth another try to me. At Smith, Jewish students traditionally order pizza to be eaten in the sukkah, for an event known as Pizza in the Hut.

Chocolate feasts aside, the construction of the sukkah, and the food shared inside it, have a deep impact on the people who participate. Said Mia, "I think decorating the sukkah was a wonderful community building activity. It was a great way to demonstrate how much we respect and care about our heritage." That heritage lives on here at Smith.