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Amid Pandemic, West Hartford Jewish Community Celebrates Sukkot – the Festival of (Outdoor) Huts

Chabad of Greater Hartford is taking a sukkah on the road. Courtesy photo

This Sukkot, Chabad is hosting an outdoor Sukkot commemoration and bringing a mobile sukkah to residents staying home due to coronavirus.

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As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact gatherings and celebrations, many events are moving outdoors.

The Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which is celebrated annually outdoors in a Sukkah – a greenery-topped hut under the sky – was marked by Chabad of Greater Hartford, which hosted a safe, socially distant outdoor “Sushi in the Sukkah” celebration on Friday, Oct. 2.

To accommodate those staying home during the pandemic, Chabad will also be taking to the streets in a mobile Sukkah on Oct 5-9, bringing holiday joy and the festival’s observances to all.

The Sukkah is a temporary outdoor structure covered with vegetation which commemorates the time the Jews wandered in the desert wilderness on their way to the Promised Land and the miraculous clouds that surrounded them. Dwelling in the sukkah during Sukkot is Biblically mandated. With a sukkah constructed and placed in the back of a pickup truck, the holiday can be brought right to people’s doorstep for a safe, socially-distanced celebration.

“Our goal is to make Judaism and Jewish practice accessible to everyone of greater Hartford’s Jews,” said Rabbi Shaya Gopin of Chabad of Greater Hartford. “That’s why this year, we’ll be hosting safe outdoor Sukkot gatherings with masks and social distancing. It’s also why we’re bringing the sukkah-mobile to the homes of people who want to join in the celebration but aren’t able or comfortable to join our socially-distanced communal gatherings.

Additionally, there will be a “Sukkot Social – at a distance” with DJ Brian, on Thursday, Oct. 8, at 5:30 p.m., organized by the Friendship Circle, to bring together people living with and without special needs.

Social isolation is difficult for everyone. However, this time period is especially difficult for the segment of the community living with disability. This will give families the opportunity to gather, in person (at a distance), and celebrate the holiday together as a community.

Another unique holiday practice is the gathering of the Four Species – most notably the etrog, a citrus fruit with a sweet and strong smell; along with the lulav – palm branch – and twigs from the willow tree and myrtle bush. Chabad has sourced hundreds of sets of the Four Species, as Biblically mandated, for local community members celebrating at home, and will take to the streets to enable all to safely observe this tradition, symbolizing the unity of the Jewish people, a message felt now perhaps more than ever with the crucial importance of community support during this time of uncertainty and upheaval. Health precautions, including hand sanitizer and disinfectant products will ensure that everyone can safely participate in this holiday observance.

The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, considered the most influential rabbi of the 20th century, launched the international Sukkot campaign in 1953, encouraging Jews around the world to join in the holiday’s observances, particularly the central observance of bringing together the Four Species.

“Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the message of Sukkot rings loud and clear,” said Gopin. “We eat in the Sukkah to emphasize we all rely on G-d’s protection. We bring together the Four Species to emphasize the importance of unity even while we are each unique and diverse. These timeless messages guide us through these unprecedented times.”

Chabad-Lubavitch is also providing a host of guides, printable tools, and virtual pre-holiday experiences and classes at ChabadHartford.com/CoronaSukkot.

For more information about the Sukkot events or to request a sukkah-mobile visit, go to www.ChabadHartford.com/mobile or call 718-974-9393

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