Families are turning their attention to Sukkot and Simchat Torah and taking part in celebrations at home and beyond.
At Daria Gutmann’s house, the whole family helps get ready for the holidays. “I usually help my dad build the sukkah, and that’s really special to me,” says the 10-year-old. “My favorite part is decorating it.” Along with her dad, Rabbi Brent Gutmann, mom, Jill, and sisters, Tzipora, 7, Lyla, 4, and Vered, 2, the family fills their 16×12 sukkah with ribbons, paper chains, bead necklaces and homemade pictures. They put tables out with pumpkins and squash from their garden and invite guests for meals.
Families around the world are spending this month immersed in the traditions of the Jewish holidays. Now, they’re turning their attention to Sukkot and Simchat Torah and taking part in celebrations at home and beyond. The big picture? According to Daria’s dad, the rabbi at Temple Kol Ami in West Bloomfield, it’s that there are different times in the year that evoke different symbols and lessons, and that they help us understand who we are, and the best people we get to be.
There’s definitely lots to learn. Daria’s dad talks to her about the sukkahs, the temporary dwellings where they spend time during Sukkot, and the cadence of the holidays. He talks about the notion of impermanence and experiencing moments of joy.
When Daria gets sad that her sukkah has to come down for the season, her dad can cheer her up. “He tells me, ‘It’ll be back next year,’” she says. Then it’s on to Simchat Torah, where Daria loves the music and dancing that come with the holiday. “We usually dance around in a circle and do these Israeli dances — they’re really fun!”
Daria’s sister Tzipora, 7, is looking forward to being in the sukkah, too. She’s excited to eat and visit with friends. Her favorite food to eat during the holiday is warm soup “because usually it’s cold in the sukkah and it feels nice.”
Meanwhile, one way 4-year-old twins Riley and Easton Foon of Bloomfield Hills will be sharing in the holiday is by putting together JFamily Detroit’s edible sukkah craft project, which gives kids the chance to use tea biscuits, cereal and pretzels to make their own sukkah.
They’ll also be attending services with parents Samantha and Michael for the holidays. “Simchat Torah, as a kid, I remember going to the service and marching around with the little Torahs,” says Samantha Foon. “It’s really one of my favorite things I did as a kid at Temple Israel.”
It’s also part of her family’s goal of giving the kids an understanding and feeling of community, togetherness and shared traditions, she says. “I want them to have a well-rounded Jewish education, not just from school but from family members, from their congregation and from Jewish organizations within the community.”
Lacey Foon of Bloomfield Hills, her husband Elliot, and 2-year-old twins Phoebe and Eloise will be making edible sukkahs and have additionally arranged to receive a visit this Sukkot from Royal Oak Chabad’s mobile sukkah, which will feature activities geared for kids, music, prizes and more.
The holiday began Sept 20 and is followed by Shemini Atzeret on Monday evening, Sept 27.
Many Jewish families put up sukkahs (temporary huts with branches for roofs that let you see the sky) in their yards and spend time eating and sometimes sleeping, outside. Sukkahs are open on one side to welcome guests, and lots of fun to decorate.
They remind us of the huts the Jewish people lived in while wandering in the desert after liberation from slavery in Egypt.
Talk about it!
Shemini Atzeret is a great time of year to think about rain and conserving water. Start a conversation in your family:
- How do you feel when it rains and why?
- Sometimes we feel sad when it rains because it spoils our fun. What are some of the good things rain does?
- Rain nourishes the earth and helps plants to grow. What things do you need to help you grow big and strong?
- What are things we can do to save water?
Don’t forget about Shemini Atzeret! The holiday starts Monday evening, Sept. 27. During this holiday, it’s customary to recite a prayer asking for rain. It makes sense — it coincides with the start of Israel’s rainy season.
Here’s an activity from JCC’s JFamily Detroit, and some things to think about over the holiday:
How to: Create a Rain Stick!
- A cardboard tube with plastic end caps
- Aluminum foil sheets
- Popcorn kernels
- Yarn and stickers to decorate the tube
Here’s what to do:
1. Use yarn, stickers, glue stick, markers and other art supplies to decorate the outside of the tube.
2. Take the large pieces of aluminum foil and roll each piece into long “snakelike” shapes. Form them into coils by wrapping around a stick (like the dowel rod from your honey dipper or a pencil).
3. Pro tip! If you make one foil coil thinner and insert the smaller coil into the larger coil, this will really make it sound like rain!
4. With one end cap secured, insert the coils into the cardboard tube. Add the popcorn kernels (or dry rice or beans). Secure the other end cap to seal the tube.
*Optional: Tape or glue end caps to make the tube more secure.
5. Now close your eyes, tip the rain stick back and forth, and imagine the rain falling over the Land of Israel.
Need additional help making your rain stick project? Check out the JFamily Detroit Facebook page and JFamily Detroit Community Facebook group for a brief instructional video
Need rain stick materials? Contact email@example.com for more information.