Center for Interfaith Cooperation

Hoosiers of Many Faiths in Community

Sukkot in a sukkah. A Holiday to Celebrate Happiness!

Our hosts Miles and Amanda Siegel

Our hosts Miles and Amanda Siegel

I recently had the privilege to attend a CIC (Center for Interfaith Cooperation) Living Room Dialogue to learn more about the Jewish faith in the home of a Jewish family in our community. The living room dialogue program is offered by the Center for Interfaith Cooperation to share and learn more about each other’s faiths in a more personal home setting. Miles and Amanda Siegel of Congregation Beth El-Zedeck graciously opened their home to a small group so we could see up close and personal how a family celebrates this special holiday in their home. In this case, we learned their practice in celebrating Sukkot, a joyful and celebratory Jewish holiday that follows Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

Sukkot are decorated with dried foods and other meaningful items

Sukkot are decorated with dried foods and other meaningful items

The holiday lasts 7 days. Many synagogues and families build a sukkah, a temporary hut, which has 2 meanings. It hearkens back to the ancient fall harvest festival, and also reflects the dwellings that the Israelites lived in for 40 years as they wandered through the wilderness after leaving Egypt. We started our visit in the sukkah built by the Siegel’s. In years past, the Siegel’s indicated they have had progressive dinners with other Jewish families in their neighborhood spending time in each of their sukkot (plural of sukkah). Sukkot must have at least 3 walls, with a roof made from material found in nature, and porous so one can see the stars above.

Rabbi Hal Schevitz explains Sukkot to our group

Rabbi Hal Schevitz explains Sukkot to our group

It was interesting to learn that, following a Jewish mystical practice, on each day of the seven day holiday, Jews welcome famous biblical figures: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David to visit the sukkah.

We then gathered inside to learn more about the weekly Shabbat (the Sabbath) and other Jewish rituals performed in the home at other times during the year.

Rabbi Hal explains the four species that are joined together and shaken on Sukkot: Lulav (palm branch), Hadas (myrtle), Aravah (willow), and Etrog (citron).

Rabbi Hal explains the four species that are joined together and shaken on Sukkot: Lulav (palm branch), Hadas (myrtle), Aravah (willow), and Etrog (citron).

As a Catholic interested in understanding other faiths, this was a very special experience. I encourage you to attend a CIC Living Room Dialogue. Our community is blessed with wonderful folks who are open in sharing their faith traditions, so we can enrich ourselves personally through these experiences. Indianapolis is a city rich with diversity. What a wonderful program to both learn about other faiths and celebrate with our neighbors.

The group gathers inside

The group gathers inside


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