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Beverly Kent Goldenberg
Life Member, Hadassah Greater Detroit

It’s Not a Holiday Without a Sukkah

Photo courtesy of the author.
Photo courtesy of the author.

“It’s not a holiday without a sukkah,” I emphatically told my husband, Mickey, when he complained about not wanting to build one this year.

Growing up, I never had a sukkah. The holiday of Sukkot was celebrated at my Uncle Meyer’s sukkah, just like all the other Jewish holidays. My Auntie Pearl (my mother oldest sister) and Uncle Meyer, both born in Poland, were first cousins. They married after Uncle Meyer came to the U.S. Their marriage united the branches of the family. Their large, comfortable home became the family meeting place where we celebrated the Jewish holidays. The sukkah was built between his house and his cousin’s house next door. We ate our meals there. We even came for lunch in the sukkah during the holiday on our school lunch break.

When Uncle Meyer moved to the Detroit suburbs, we continued to celebrate the holiday in his sukkah. My nephew, Ariel, even had his brit milah (Jewish circumcision ceremony) there. I think we always called it Uncle Meyers’s sukkah, not Auntie Pearl and Uncle Meyer’s sukkah, because he was the man, the head of our family, as well as the president of his shul (synagogue) and the sukkah builder. Without my own grandparents, Auntie Pearl and Uncle Meyers became mine.

Once I was married and we bought our first home in Huntington Woods, MI, our neighbors, Mel and Sherry Foster, built a sukkah every year. Mel came from an orthodox background. He grew up with a sukkah each year. Mickey and I, and later our children, happily helped construct and decorate. We usually had several meals together in their sukkah during the holiday week.

One year, Sherry and Mel were going out of town during the holidays. They asked if we’d like to use their sukkah. That was it! We had so much fun on the holiday having our own sukkah. We invited guests, ate all our meals there, and the kids even slept in the sukkah one night.

The next year as the holiday approached, I knew I wanted a sukkah of our own. Mickey, an Israeli, said they always had sukkah made from cloth, not wooden ones like Uncle Meyer’s and Mel and Sherry’s sukkah. So, Mickey constructed a sukkah of our own. It was unique: wooden support beams, draped with white drop cloths. Mickey is a painting contractor, so he had many drop cloths available. My sister had some interesting cloth – one became our door, the other became our tablecloth. The light fixture was a round metal ball with colored stones that I bought in the market in Jerusalem. I brought it home in 1973 from my first visit to Israel. We dropped a bulb inside, connected the electricity, and voila! We had a colorful sukkah.

Our first sukkah was built over 30 years ago and has graced the yards of two homes in Huntington Woods. The same wood and drop cloths are used each year to put the sukkah together. I buy a lulav and etrog for our family and friends to shake and say the prayer (lulav is a palm branch which is joined with myrtle and willow branches and etrog is a citron fruit. The four pieces are held and waved during synagogue services. Ours is the only sukkah on the block and in Mickey’s family. One of the traditions of the Sukkot holiday is inviting guests into the sukkah. So, entertain we did! Guests for meals, as well as an open house. To accommodate Covid restrictions in the past years, we built a sukkah without walls

As we have aged, Mickey often threatened, “I am not building a sukkah this year!” However, if we were home for the holiday, it was a must for me. So, a sukkah he built and enjoyed once erected. Our cousins and neighbors have come to help. Cousins Moshe and Shellie are our dependable helpmates. Shellie’s artistry has enhanced the sukkah each year adding a shelf, fruits, and decorations, etc. We have continued our Sukkot holiday traditions despite Covid, building a sukkah without walls to accommodate Covid restrictions.

So, naturally, with the Sukkot holiday approaching, I needed a sukkah this year, too. Before the holiday, I set a date and called for help. Our Covid sukkah was ready for the holiday again this year! Chag Sukkot Sameach!

Hadassah stands for Jewish values and traditions. Hadassah also stands up for women’s empowerment and leadership, and therefore strongly supports the role of Jewish woman as keepers of the flame of Jewish values, traditions and beliefs. I am proud to be a Life Member of a national organization with such a noble purpose.

About the Author
Beverly Kent Goldenberg has been a life member of Hadassah since 1968 and is a member of the Hadassah Writers' Circle. She was born and raised in Detroit and is a member of the Eleanor Roosevelt Chapter, Hadassah Greater Detroit. A social worker by profession, she earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Michigan. Beverly worked at Jewish Family Service and Hillel Day School of Metro Detroit for over 30 years, creating social skills programs for children that were modeled state-wide. Her English teachers always thought that she would become a journalist. Better late than never, she has been writing and publishing memoir pieces and poetry the past several years. Beverly and her Israeli husband, Michael, raised their two sons, Etai (Caroline), a urologist, and Oren, a filmmaker and real estate developer, in Huntington Woods, Michigan, where they still reside today. Beverly is Savta to five grandchildren, Leo, Ami, Estee and Elie, Nesya and a grand-dog, Sparrow.
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