October 5, 2023

Celebrating the Fall Harvest During the Seven Days of Sukkot

A resident in the Sukkah

Sukkot, one of the happiest Jewish holidays, tells the story of how the Jewish people survived while traveling through the desert on their way to the promised land. This year, Sukkot celebrations at CJL were enhanced by the spectacular Sukkah in Chelsea and Peabody. The sukkah, a temporary walled structure where people spend time during the holiday, is often thought of as a “home away from home.”

Essentially the sukkah is a hut built to provide shade. That’s why it must sit beneath the open sky—not under a patio deck or even the branches of a tree. The walls can be made of any material, as long as they are secure and don’t flap about in the wind. The roof, however, called it s’chach, must be made of unprocessed materials which have grown from the ground and when secured to the hut the roof must have a weave that allows you to see through to the sky. Sukkot also includes waving a lulav, a closed frond from a date palm, while holding an etrog, a yellow citron.

Ellen Gordon, Director of Residential Life at Chelsea Jewish Lifecare, noted that residents, staff, and families were excited to have a new Sukkah built on the Peabody campus. “We were in need of replacing our much beloved, 30-plus year-old sukkah,” explained Ellen. “Actually, our old sukkah was a ‘shundah’ as my mother would have said. This year we replaced it with a big, beautiful new one!”

Ellen and her staff erected the much larger sukkah to accommodate a combination of residents, the children of the NSJCC Preschool, as well as welcoming the congregants of Sons of Israel, all who have contributed to the decorating of the sukkah. As Ellen noted, “There was a wonderful sense of camaraderie as the sukkah was being decorated, which resulted in a delightful communal vibe!”

At the Leonard Florence Center in Chelsea, the Maintenance Department’s Amando Alacon and David O’Conner, both CJL employees for over 30 years, built quite an impressive sukkah. The Activities Staff’s Shellie Honohan and Cathie Mesina decorated it. Residents, particularly Edith, Virginia, and Rita, also helped with the decorations. Rabbi Sruli Baron from the Tobin Bridge Chabad discussed the importance of the fall holidays and the various celebrations with staff members.

“I always enjoy watching the residents shake the lulav and the etrog,” remarked Jimmy Honohan, Recreational Programming Director at Chelsea Jewish Lifecare. “The Sukkah brings back cherished memories for our Jewish residents while creating new ones for others. The Sukkah is such a beautiful symbol of dedication, harvest, and autumn.”

Over at the Katzman Family Center for Living, the holiday was a time to reminisce about the residents’ past years. Roy Roldan, Activities Director at KCL, noted that residents spoke about Sukkot with a smile on their faces. “Many of our residents discussed the fact that Sukkot is a true family affair,” explained Roldan. “They remembered everyone working together to assemble the sukkah, cutting down branches and leaves. The residents all agreed that leaving sweets on the table to usher in a ‘sweet’ new year was a beloved tradition.” Rabb Sruli Baron, Gilda Richman, residents, and staff were on hand to mark the start of the holiday, along with Sidney Zimmerman, who led the uplifting services.

Sukkot serves as a reminder of what’s important in life. Jimmy Honohan summed it up perfectly. “Residents visit the Sukkah to enjoy an activity, meditate, sing, pray, read, eat, or just rejoice in the beauty of the fall season. It really is a special place.”