Imagine an energetic band blasting tunes, beautiful neon colors swirling in a tent and an awkwardly large bird dancing in crisp air. Behold: an entire city of sukkahs! The Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore hosted a festival for Sukkot on the evening of Oct. 17. Set on the JCC campus in Owings Mills, it offered a variety of activities for adults and children.
There were 14 sukkahs, each hosting a different activity. Boy Scouts offered knot-tying lessons. Assistant Senior Patrol Alex told us, “I hope to get kids interested in becoming Scouts.”
The JCC offered lulavs from Israel. One man asked Debbie Schwartzman from the JCC if he could take one, and then began to shake it, putting the sukkah to good use.
Schwartzman shouted over the music as she served hot apple cider: “It’s about building community, showing what JCC offers and spreading holiday cheer!”
The aroma filled the tent as children ran past. One of them, Imzadi Habbaophee, 9, stopped to explain what she’d been doing.
“I made a little house and drew a magnet and I won a lollipop and now I wanna make a bottle with a plant in it,” she said matter-of-factly.
Rachel Dressin of Owings Mills marveled at the colored magnet her son Kaleb made. It was Dressin’s sister, Rabbi Jessy Dressin, who initiated this annual event.
“She was thinking to draw a large community to engage with rituals,” said the event’s supervisor, Sharon Siegel, JCC senior program director.
The rabbi herself explained: “Sukkot is my favorite holiday. I’ve always loved Z’man Simchateinu,” she said.
All four grandparents of Adina Cappell, 33, of Owings Mills, were Holocaust survivors, so this Jewish holiday about survival was especially important to her. Of course, she also was glad for the refreshments. “I like that they have a bar,” she said.
Attendees were encouraged to bring their own picnics. Many people sat and listened to the band. Jeff Millman of Pikesville said that he and his wife have a new grandchild, and wanted her to experience it.
“The band is excellent,” his wife chimed in. “But tell her why else we’re here!”
Millman paused for a second. “Oh! It’s our 34-year anniversary!”
Cory Hermann, who planned this year’s event, had a message for next year: Everyone is welcome to build a sukkah of their own, with a group of friends or family.
Or maybe even celebrate an anniversary.