Since 1979, my husband Scott, along with our kids and many friends, have put up a sukkah, skipping only a few years during that time. The first one, built to fit on our four by eight-foot apartment balcony, was one of wood and burlap. Each piece was labeled with a letter to make it easy to figure out which side was which. We cut down the corn stalks from a local farm field and made simple decorations. Because it was on the main street in our “yuppie neighborhood” many walked past and some shouted “Chag Sameach.”
After about 18 years, with many of the parts really worn out, we found online plans for a lattice and wood pole sukkah and built that latest version for about ten plus years, in the backyard of two different homes, until a terrible storm destroyed it during the holiday.
We missed a year or so after that, due to my travel to Israel and a few other issues. But I finally said we need an updated version and bought connectors and a tarp from a place in the northwest United States (that also sold auto and boat temporary shelters) and went to the local hardware store for the metal piping to use as framing poles. This one has been the easiest to put together and to take down, and the most fun to decorate with leaf garlands, tuille, and lights along with bamboo roofing.
Each year at this time, I get a bit sentimental, especially as I look at the photos from over the years. It never mattered how simple or full our sukkah was, what mattered most are the family and friends who helped us build the sukkah or celebrate in it. In the early years, we were one of the few of our friends to build a sukkah. We held sukkah building and decorating parties, so our enlarging circle of friends could experience the joy of building a sukkah. The kids would make paper and popcorn chains and drawings to hang up, while the adults put the sukkah framing together. One year, when Scott had to travel for business over all the holidays, our friends were right there ready to build and decorate without him. Several of the kids even shared their memories of our sukkah during their Bar/Bat Mitzvah. I kvelled in knowing that we made an impact on their Jewish lives.
As we end the holiday this fall, I am reminded once again of the importance of sharing the holidays with others. What can we each do to keep the celebrations and customs alive for future generations? How do we bring joy to someone whose family no longer lives nearby. Aside from building our sukkah and inviting others to be with us for other holidays as well, is through my role in Hadassah as the Vice Chair of Young Judaea.
In 2012, Hadassah spun off Young Judaea after almost 45 years as the “sole owner.” It was time to give Young Judaea, now known as Young Judaea Global, its wings to fly and to grow. But today, we are still a partner with Young Judaea Global, raising scholarship funds for camps and Israel programs, and supporting them through an Allocation Grant. We at Hadassah believe that Young Judaea is the best way to engage our youth, build strong leaders, and to ensure a love of Israel and Zionism in future generations.
As we end the holiday, think about sending your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, on a Young Judaea program – day and overnight camps, Israel for a summer on Gesher, or on the premier gap year around, Young Judaea Year Course. I guarantee that these programs will change their lives, maybe yours as well.
Together, You and I can change the world. Young Judaea’s motto. Hadassah is together with Young Judaea. So am I. Chag Sameach.