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Jewish Student Collective Celebrates Sukkot with the Mills Community

Photo of the front of the sukkah submitted by JSC Co-President Ari Yovel

From Oct. 15 to Oct. 20, the Mills Jewish Student Collective (JSC) shared the Jewish holiday of Sukkot (pronounced sue-coat) with the Mills community. Sukkot is a festival that celebrates the period of time during which the Israelites traveled from Egypt to find the Promised Land.

The JSC erected a sukkah (pronounced: sue-KAH) which is translated as booth or hut, that the Mills community was encouraged to visit. Sukkah are temporary structures that commemorate the temporary dwellings that the Israelites lived in on their journey to the Promised Land. When asked why they feel it is important to celebrate and share Sukkot with the community at Mills, JSC co-President Ari Yovel responded, “The holiday of sukkot has many values that tie into the Mills experience: building community, resilience in the face of adversity, and celebrating that which brings us together.”

This sukkah, which JSC members built with the help of volunteers, was located on the grassy field in front of the Cowell building near the frog pond. It was constructed as a very calm and serene space, consisting of a wooden frame sheltered on its sides with various pieces of cloth and roofed with branches entwined with twinkling lights. Over the course of its time on campus, it was visited by members of the Mills community and on Oct. 16, students from Mills College Children’s School visited the sukkah while studying a unit on “home,” and left garlands of paper chains as decorations.

In its interior there was a bench to sit on as well as signs that prompted visitors to contemplate a list of questions, including: 

  1. What sacrifices have you made along your life’s path?
  2. Who do you consider your ancestors, mentors, and/or sources of inspiration?
  3. How do you understand, engage with, and overcome adversity
  4. When in your life have you been in a leadership position? 
  5. Why does it matter to you to connect with your heritage?
  6. Where does your drive for the future come from?
  7. Which of your accomplishments would you like to be known and remembered for?

According to ReformJudaism.org, Sukkot, also known as the Festival of Booths, is a holiday that lasts seven day and begins five days after the end of Yom Kippur which ended on the evening of Oct. 9. The holiday is held as an occasion of thanksgiving during which temporary dwellings, the sukkahs, are made in order to remember the homes Israelites lived in during their journey to the land God promised them.

Over the duration of this autumn holiday ancestors are honored and the sukkah stands as a place where people are meant to “eat, gather with friends, and even sleep.” According to NSW Board of Jewish Education, Sukkot was also an autumn festival that celebrated fall harvests.

“On a campus like Mills, where many students admit to feeling very lonely, a holiday that focuses on literally making a space to be together feels very relevant and important,” Yovel said.

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