If you have come to the Schnitzer Family Campus lately, you may have noticed that the sukkah in the MJCC courtyard is still up. If you are a PJA family, you may have had your child come home from an in-person gathering and tell you that they spent time in the sukkah. And you probably asked- In the sukkah? On CHANUKAH?! Why are we spending time in the sukkah and why is the sukkah still up so far into December when Sukkot ended mid-October??
Yes, you guessed it, the sukkah has become even more of a shelter than it normally is during Sukkot. It has become a space for our students and teachers to learn, sing, play, celebrate holidays, and be together under protected cover from the rain and cold. Though there are some leaks in the ‘roof’ and there is an entire open wall which lets in fresh air, the sukkah, generously donated by the Norman family and built by MJCC and PJA employees and volunteers, serves as a safe haven for us to gather during this pandemic time.
What is a Sukkah? According to the Torah, Sukkot ( the name of the holiday during which time we sit in a sukkah) are booths that the Jewish people lived in during their journey out of Egypt and through the desert. As a remembrance of this time, we construct a sukkah during the holiday of Sukkot (during the Jewish month of Tishrei which usually falls in Sept/Oct), in order to have this kind of a symbolic shelter to eat, visit and even, for some, sleep during the days of Sukkot. The sukkah is not typically used for any of these things once the holiday is over. It is taken down and we return to eating, visiting and sleeping in the shelter of our warmer homes.
This year the sukkah has protected us, just as it did the Jewish people wandering through the desert to a better place. We, too, are doing some wandering these days as we move towards healthier and happier times when we can learn and be together in the more permanent structure of our school building and classroom. For now, we are grateful for the shelter of our sukkah, with its improved roof to keep out the rain (mostly!), to help us on our journey to safer and easier times. We sing, laugh, learn, visit, do projects, and take this opportunity to safely gather and be together.