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Jewish Families Building Their First Sukkah

September 26, 2017 | by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller

Bringing home the beauty and joy of Judaism.

A growing number of Jewish families are embracing the holiday of Sukkot – complete with building a family sukkah – and it’s changing the way they relate to Judaism, and to each other.

“My older daughter asked for one,” explains Tracey B., a mother of two in suburban Chicago. The request to build their very own sukkah, which their daughter had learned about in Sunday School, might have seemed intimidating, but Tracey had noticed one of her neighbors building their very own family sukkah in their backyard the year before. “We had friends who had also done it,” she explains, “so it didn’t seem too crazy.”

After conferring with her husband, the family decided to go for it and build their first ever sukkah.

For Lawrence L., a father of two, building his family’s first-ever sukkah was a way make sure his young children experience the beauty of Sukkot.

Lawrence had experienced one meal in a sukkah many years ago and that completely changed his perspective of the holiday and planted a seed of longing one day to build a sukkah of his own. “I like to try and do as much as Jewishly possible,” Lawrence explains, and when he and his young family moved from their apartment into a house, he saw his opportunity to build a sukkah at last.

He started inviting his daughter’s entire preschool class over each Sukkot. “We all look forward to it.”

Beth L. grew up enjoying her family’s sukkah - the only one in their suburban Chicago neighborhood. She still lives in the same area and now counts over 25 in her area. “It’s a very traditional neighborhood,” she explains, “but not Orthodox.”

Beth’s elementary-school and middle-school aged kids “love being part of the building and decorating, making handmade paper chains, pictures and signs, and inviting over school friends to enjoy the sukkah.”

Michelle J’s kids were in Sunday School learning about Sukkot and the family decided to start bringing the traditions into their home. Although neither Michelle nor her husband had grown up having a sukkah, spending time in the sukkah together on Sukkot soon became a meaningful way to bond as a family.

“It’s totally fun and our neighbors love it too,” Michelle says. The family hosted Sukkot meals ranging from barbeques to take-out Chinese, often with loads of guests. The family also got to know some of their other Jewish neighbors who stopped by to visit their sukkah.

At one sukkah party Michelle was invited to each guest was asked to bring a dish for a potluck dinner to feed their bodies and to also prepare a story or speech that would feed their souls. She valued how spending time in the sukkah encouraged them to discuss larger questions about life.

Asked what advice they have for anyone contemplating building a sukkah, everyone I spoke with answered the same way: “Just do it!” “It doesn’t have to be perfect,” one mom notes, recalling her family’s early, flimsy (though still usable) sukkah. “We learn a lot every year.”

Click here to learn more about Sukkot.

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