Students are celebrating Sukkot, the Jewish harvest festival, in a sukkah, which is a temporary structure that they built on the Quad. Photo by Andrew Daddio

To celebrate the eight-day Jewish holiday of Sukkot, one of three harvest festivals celebrated in Judaism, a sukkah is taking center stage on the Quad this week.  

Located directly in front of the Chapel, the sukkah is impossible to miss. Constructed by the Blue Diamond Society (Colgate’s Jewish male philanthropic organization), the hut with brown tarp walls and a straw ceiling stands out among the elegant stone buildings lining the Academic Quad.

“The sukkah is supposed to be a very temporary structure,” explained Rabbi Dena Bodian. “Sukkot commemorates that forty-year journey when the Israelites were nomadic and traveled across the desert.” The holiday began last Wednesday and ends this Thursday.

Step inside the rustic hut and you’ll find that the inside is actually quite homey. Colorful paper chains adorn the tarp walls, tables are set up with autumnal centerpieces, and squash gourds hang from the ceiling. Members of the Colgate Jewish Union (CJU) decorated and have planned meal-centered events to take place in the sukkah.

Not being Jewish, I hadn’t heard of Sukkot until I saw the sukkah’s presence on the Quad and went in to inquire. I ended up joining Bodian, the CJU, and a collection of international students in the sukkah for a dinner of Indian food from the Royal India Grill.

“In theory, really observant Jews will have sukkahs in their yards,” explained CJU member Dana Laxer ’15. “When I was a kid, [we] would decorate the [temple] sukkah on the closest Sunday to Sukkot. I made those paper chains probably 140 times as a child.

“It’s a very different kind of holiday,” she added. “It’s [being outside] and it’s community bonding that is different from just sitting in services. It’s a nice way to mix it up.”