With Muslim, Christian and Jewish students in attendance, Dr. Deena Grant, Associate Professor of Jewish Studies, gave a short lesson about the Jewish holiday of Sukkot and invited students to eat inside Hartford Seminary’s sukkah, a traditional temporary shelter built for the observance.
Dr. Grant explained the theological underpinnings of the holiday, a seven-day occasion for rejoicing that reminds the Jewish people of the 40-year period during which they wandered in the desert living in temporary shelters. The shelters, she said, were flimsy because they could not be permanent, and the message is that man-made structures do not protect us but God does.
Marni Loffman, a Jewish student in the MA in International Peacebuilding program, spoke about how Sukkot (the plural of sukkah) is one of three Jewish holidays related to pilgrimages. She also spoke about how different religious practices get transformed by different cultures, such as when American families go “sukkah-hopping” to view the different variations and sometimes collect candy.
Before inviting participants to eat pizza in the sukkah, Dr. Grant demonstrated a traditional blessing involving a palm frond, two willow branches, three myrtle branches and an etrog, a type of citrus fruit native to Israel. Students, staff, and faculty took turns offering the blessing themselves.