Sunday, September 19, 2010

World Religion Curriculum Resource: Redesigning the Sukkah

I'm helping to teach a world religion class, and this month we are looking at Judaism.  Since the Jewish holiday of Sukkot begins Thursday, September 23 this year, and runs until Wednesday, September 29, our latest class including a discussion of sukkahs.

Sukkot is a celebration of the fall harvest, as well as a reminder of the 40 years the Isrealites wondered in the wilderness as Mose led them from their slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land.  In memory of those nomadic years, as well as encouraging people to leave their houses and get more in touch with nature,  Jews construct temporary buildings called sukkahs in which they are supposed to eat all their meals and spend time in during that week.  The sukkahs have various rules:  they must have at least two and a half walls, the roofs must be open but covered by organic, and the roof covering must be enough to create more shade than light during the day but also open enough to feel the rain fall and to see the stars at night.  This is a festive holiday, so families also decorate their sukkat with seasonal fruits and vegetables, plants, banners, children's cards and drawing--sometimes even "Christmas" lights.  It has been one of the most popular Jewish holidays with our students, who are intrigued with the idea of building a sukkat and spending a week outside.  This year, in fact, it overlaps with the "Take a Child Outside Week," which runs September 24-30.

What really got our students going, however, is an initiative going on right now called "Sukkah City."  A design competition selected 12 revolutionary concepts for sukkahs (out of hundreds of submissions), and they are building the winning designs in Union Square Park in New York City.  You have got to check out these designs!  They are incredible.  They are supposed to be in line with traditional rules (although there seems to be some debate about that on the Internet), but they are fabulous constructions that raise all sorts of interesting ideas about habitats, even if you aren't Jewish.

To see the winning designs, go to the website at: .
There is also a great article discussing the designs and how well sukkahs fit the NYC lifestyle in New York Magazine at .

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