Sukkot, often described as the “Season of Our Rejoicing,” is among the most joyous of the Jewish holidays; when a sukkah is erected at a site for the first time, the joy and holiness of performing this mitzvah are compounded.

In Michigan, two new sukkahs are cause for special celebration this year: one on the grounds of the Farber Soul Center and Soul Cafe, a new program of Friendship Circle of Michigan, and one at the home of Rabbi Levi and Mushky Dubov, co-directors of the recently founded Chabad of Bloomfield Hills.

The Dubovs, who just moved to the Detroit area after spending their first year of marriage in Brooklyn, N.Y., will host their first major event on Thursday, Oct. 20, during Chol Hamoed: a “Soup in the Sukkah” open house featuring a variety of stomach-warming kosher soups and special activities for children.

The young couple’s future plans for the new center include adult-education classes in Kabbalah, Talmud and the weekly Torah portion; special classes for women; children’s programming; and a full range of Jewish-holiday services and events.

According to Rabbi Dubov, the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills has seen significant growth in the number of Jewish residents over the past few decades. He estimates the Jewish population at the local high school is now close to 30 percent.

“It’s a very ripe area, and we’ve had an amazing reception from the community so far,” he says. “As we learn more about the community, we’ll add more programs. I think the needs will create themselves.”

Rabbi Levi Dubov, left, gets help putting up his first Michigan sukkah from Cary Heller.
Rabbi Levi Dubov, left, gets help putting up his first Michigan sukkah from Cary Heller.

While the new Chabad center is starting small, the recently married Dubovs have big dreams, fueled by the accomplishments both of them experienced growing up in strong Lubavitch families. Mushky, 21, is the daughter of Rabbi Levi and Bassie Shemtov, founders and co-directors of Friendship Circle of Michigan, an organization that has become a worldwide model for its extensive array of programs for children and young adults with special needs.

Rabbi Levi Dubov, 24, is the son of Rabbi Dovid and Malky Dubov, co-directors of Chabad of Mercer County in Princeton, N.J., which has grown to include a flourishing community of active participants and a comprehensive two-story center that serves as the regional hub of the organization’s surrounding branches.

“It was a very natural decision that our lives should be a legacy of serving others,” says Dubov, who hopes to expand the Bloomfield Hills program to include its own facility. “The building is a dream now, but we hope it will come to fruition soon.”

The Dubov sukkah in the works before the start of the holiday
The Dubov sukkah in the works before the start of the holiday

‘Mitzvah of Being’

The week before the start of Sukkot was a natural time to talk about the holiday at a mothers’ lunch-and-learn led by Sarah Schectman, family coordinator for Friendship Circle of Michigan.

Through the window of the Soul Cafe—the newly opened kosher restaurant staffed by young adults with special needs—the moms had a clear view of the first sukkah ever built on the grounds of the Farber Soul Center, which includes the Soul Cafe and the Dresner Foundation Soul Studio, where artists with special needs sell works of art they create from a variety of techniques such as woodworking, laser-cutting, printmaking and weaving.

Rabbi Levi and Mushky Dubov, co-directors of Chabad of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., in their finished sukkah
Rabbi Levi and Mushky Dubov, co-directors of Chabad of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., in their finished sukkah

Meeting at the Soul Café has a deeper meaning for these mothers, who, except for group leader Sarah Schectman, all have children or young adults with special needs.

At this session, over a lunch of homemade vegetable soup, over-stuffed sandwiches and a bountiful salad, the women discussed the meaning of Sukkot and its underlying concept of unity. Schectman clarified why the sukkah is a “mitzvah of being,” rather than a specific act.

“Our whole being is involved; the mitzvah is absorbed by our entire body,” explained Schectman. “That’s why people entertain in their sukkahs—just being in the sukkah is a mitzvah whether or not you understand.”

She spoke about how the “Four Kinds” traditionally bundled together on Sukkot—the lulav (palm branch), etrog (citrus fruit), hadas (myrtle branch) and aravah (willow branch)—represent unity and the different types of Jews. “We are all pieces of a puzzle, and together, we complete each other.”

At the kosher cafe are Jennifer Lovy, left, the mother of a son with special needs, and Sarah Schectman, family coordinator for Friendship Circle of Michigan.
At the kosher cafe are Jennifer Lovy, left, the mother of a son with special needs, and Sarah Schectman, family coordinator for Friendship Circle of Michigan.

For a comprehensive guide to information, insights and inspiration about the holiday of Sukkot and its many mitzvahs, visit the Chabad.org Sukkot mini-site here.

To find a Sukkot or Simchat Torah event near you, click here.

The Farber Soul Center sukkah
The Farber Soul Center sukkah