Reflecting one of the themes of the weeklong holiday itself, Sukkot celebrations in communities around the world emphasized that the unity and diversity of the Jewish people go hand in hand.

At Chabad-Lubavitch of the Auraria Campus in Denver, Colo., Rabbi Moshe and Aura Ort took up a popular activity copied in some form or another at locations around the globe when they travelled to three area colleges to bring the holiday directly to students. Driving in a “sukkah mobile” – a pickup truck sporting one of the temporary huts characteristic of the holiday – the couple invited students to make a blessing on the Four Species, a bundle of myrtle, willow, date palm and citron traditionally held during each day of Sukkot.

“What has been really beautiful about this holiday is seeing how much it brings everyone together,” said Aura Ort, noting that according to many sources, the Four Species symbolize Jewish unity. “We have a very diverse student population, from Israelis, to Russians, to Bukharan Jews, and during Sukkot, we’re in this small, cozy sukkah. It feels like one family.”

Throughout the holiday, Jewish students stopped by the Orts’ home, which hosted an especially large gathering Oct. 7 for a sushi dinner and karaoke party inside of the couple’s stationary sukkah.

Halfway around the world, at the Chabad House of Tokyo, revelers also feasted on sushi, with some of the 70 students, tourists, business travelers and local residents staying at the sukkah of Rabbi Mendi and Chana Sudakevich as late as 1 a.m. some nights.

“Everyone was happy to come to the sukkah and just relax, and have a chance to get to know each other,” stated Chana Sudakevich. “Tokyo can be very hectic, and this week, people had a chance to slow down, to spend time together. Every night we had something: One night, a family who came here from Mexico prepared a Mexican feast for everyone.”

As the days of Sukkot led into the concluding holiday of Simchat Torah, the Sudakevichs put the final touches on a children’s program to be followed by prayer services and an all-night dance party with a Torah scroll.

Celebrants in Denver included Israeli students, Russians and Bukharan Jews.
Celebrants in Denver included Israeli students, Russians and Bukharan Jews.

Firsts in Rome and Northampton

All told, tens of thousands of people visited sukkahs in locations from New York City, where Chabad-Lubavitch of Midtown Manhattan erected one in the historic Bryant Park, to Rome, where members of the Jewish community joined Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Yitzchak Hazan, diplomats from the Israeli Embassy and municipal officials to inaugurate a giant sukkah in the Piazza Farnesse.

In Stockholm, Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Chaim and Mina Greisman hosted more than 700 people in their sukkah despite heavy rains and temperatures hovering around 10 degrees Celsius during daylight hours throughout the week.

“The second night of the holiday, there was a downpour that lasted the whole day, just until a minute or two before our meal in the sukkah was scheduled to begin. It stopped and we went into the sukkah,” recalled Chaim Greisman. “People here aren’t deterred by inclement weather. They bundle up.”

Greisman and his younger brother Zushi, who flew in from Israel to assist during the holiday, stopped at the Israeli Embassy and made the rounds of area nursing homes and retirement communities to give Jews throughout the Swedish capital the opportunity to hold the Four Species. Nightly events at the Chabad House’s sukkah included a special program for Jewish students from Stockholm University.

Back in the United States, Rabbi Shmuel and Ariel Kravitsky began their second year as directors of Chabad of the Four Colleges – a Massachusetts Chabad House serving Amherst, Mount Holyoke, Smith and Hampshire Colleges – by erected the town of Northampton’s first-ever public sukkah. They constructed the hut in a public park a few blocks from Smith College.

They also built a giant 35-foot-long sukkah next to their new home in Amherst, where they invited students to screen films produced by Jewish Educational Media, the New York-based organization charged with preserving and disseminating the video and audio recordings of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.

“Everybody was very excited about our sukkah this year, because it was huge and we were able to have some great events in it,” stated Shmuel Kravitsky. “The local press took photos of it; it generated a bit of a buzz because of its size and appearance.”

“Dozens of students stopped by every day just to hang out,” added Ariel Kravitsky. “Some brought their own food and just wanted to eat lunch in the sukkah between classes; others came for the meals we prepared. They came just to spend time in the sukkah and that’s great!”

Rabbi Eli Estrin, director of the Chabad House serving the University of Washington in Seattle, commented that the public nature of Sukkot “gets people excited about being Jews.”

“We’ve met at least 50 new people during this week,” echoed Aura Ort. “Sukkot just always brings Jews together. That’s the beauty of the holiday.”