Jews celebrate Sukkot with tradition and sushi

A drizzling rain couldn’t stop Jews from celebrating the festival of Sukkot on Sunday.

A drizzling rain couldn’t stop Jews from celebrating the festival of Sukkot on Sunday.

They huddled under the roughly 12-by-12-foot wooden sukkah — a type of temporary living quarters that the Jewish people used during their 40 years of wandering in the desert during Biblical times — while eating sushi and butternut squash soup, praying, singing and enjoying one another’s company.

“The sukkah reminds the Jews how God protects the Jews at all times,” said Rabbi Yossi Rubin, co-director of the Clifton Park Chabad, during Sunday’s third-annual Sushi in the Sukkah party. The event featured kosher sushi and other gourmet food from Mr. Fuji, crafts for all ages and music from violinist Josh Sussman.

The 7-day Sukkot festival, which began on Oct. 12 and concludes Wednesday, takes its name from the Hebrew word for booths.

As new people entered the sukkah, they took some of the palms, said a blessing and shook them in all directions — left, right, up and down.

Jews are supposed to eat all meals in the sukkah, which is not fully covered but decorated with tree branches.

“It’s a sturdy little edifice to show that life is temporary,” said Rochel Rubin, the rabbi’s mother, who was helping children color in pictures representing the festival by using colored sand.

Mordechai Rubin, who is originally from Albany, explained that the holiday is all about unity, noting that all people fit under the sukkot structure.

“We cannot do this commandment unless we have everybody together,” said Rubin, who is studying to be a rabbi but returned home from England to be a part of the holiday.

As part of the observation, Jews say prayers while waving four different species of plants — a lemon-like citrus fruit called an etrog that is native to Israel and Italy, a palm branch, willow branch and myrtle branch.

These plants are supposed to represent the different types of Jews.

The etrog, which has a taste and a scent, is supposed to represent those who are well-versed in the Torah — the Jewish holy book — and are expressive about their faith, according to Rubin.

The myrtle has a taste but no scent and the palm branch has a scent but no taste. The willow branch has neither a taste nor a smell, according to Rubin.

“It shows all different people how to unite for the holiday,” Rubin said.

Jeff LeMonds of Clifton Park helped construct the sukkah with Jay Birnbaum — a process that took about three to four hours. LeMonds said he likes that he is helping to keep alive a tradition that dates back 3,500 years.

LeMonds’ wife, Varda, said this festival comes during a particularly busy time for the Jewish calendar. Last month, Jews celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the new year, and earlier this month they celebrated Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. Following Sukkot is Simchat Torah, which represents the final reading in a cycle of scrolls that took the whole year.

“We read a chapter every single week,” Varda LeMonds said. “At this particular time, we finish a scroll and we start a new one. You see people rejoicing.”

Barbara Eisenstadt of Clifton Park said she enjoyed the celebration. “The rabbi has gotten everything so perfect,” she said.

Howard Spiegel of Clifton Park said he comes to the event every year. “It gets everybody together. It’s just a very festive time.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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