Fairfield University Celebrates Jewish Fall Festival
The sukkah recently built next to Donnarumma is bringing people together from all walks of campus life.
The temporary hut, or sukkah, is in memory of when Jews wandered the wilderness for 40 years in search of a permanent home, and lived in these types of structures. Visitors have included the campus Muslim and Protestant chaplains, Jesuits, faculty from a variety of departments and schools, staff, students, university administrators, and custodial staff.
KADIMA - Fairfield’s undergraduate Jewish student organization – constructed the hut to mark the Jewish fall festival of Sukkot. It serves as a gathering place to share a meal, hold class or simply to reflect.
“There are so many similarities between the Sukkot, with its focus on giving thanks and recognizing our responsibilities to live lives in the service of others less fortunate, and our Jesuit Catholic heritage, centered in justice, which calls us to be men and women with and for others,” said Dr. Thomas Pellegrino, vice president of student affairs and university coordinator for Mission and Identity. “It is a wonderful and accurate representation of the type of community spirit that lives deep in the heart of our campus.”
Sukkot is the holiday on which Thanksgiving is based, which begins five days after Yom Kippur. It’s traditionally celebrated by eating in and for some religious Jews even sleeping in a sukkah. In the Fairfield hut, the dining table was adorned with pumpkins and gourds, its canvas walls stringed with faux fruit and produce, and its roof with bamboo shoots and palms. The decorations were a nod to the Lulav (palm, willow, and myrtle) and Etrog (a citrus fruit) harvested in the fall in Israel.
“Historically, the festival enables Jews to remember and relive their biblical ancestors’ wandering after leaving Egypt,” said Elaine Bowman, program manager of the Bennett Center for Judaic Studies, which hosted a series of luncheons in the sukkah.
Ultimately, the hope is that people rejoice and at the same time strengthen their resolve in honor of the Jews who struggled for so many years.
“It is a time to consider the fragility of life and to be grateful for what you have,” said Ellen Umansky, Ph.D., director of the Bennett Center.
It should also be a reminder that today there are thousands of Americans and millions of people who have insufficient food and housing. Dr. Umansky noted, “We hope the sukkah causes people to remember our responsibility to help the poor and the hungry, especially as we move into the winter and holiday season.”