An excerpt from Jewish Woman Magazine “Out of the House and Into the Sukkah”

Around the neighborhood and across the observance spectrum, Jews are connecting to nature—and each other—through the season's most joyous festival.

Julie Tamarkin of Beachwood, Ohio, views assembling her sukkah not only as a cap on her High Holiday experience but also as something of a physical manifestation of her family's spiritual journey. Tamarkin put up her first sukkah after her youngest son's bar mitzvah in 2006, a celebration that almost didn't happen. Her son wasn't sure he believed in God and had mixed feelings about Judaism.

"I didn't want him to do it just because it's what we do," Tamarkin says. "I didn't want him to go through the motions if it didn't mean anything to him. But he kept taking the next step and the next step, and he became a bar mitzvah in September three years ago. It felt like a miracle happened. Someone who felt lost and disconnected Jewishly became connected in a very real and honest way. Then came Sukkot. What a great next step."

She ordered a kit from SukkahSoul, a designer prefab sukkah kit crafted from cedar poles and a white translucent veil-like material for walls. Together with her son, she assembled the structure. Now Tamarkin's holiday tradition includes inviting friends over after temple at the end of Yom Kippur. They have coffee and dessert before heading outside to start building in the dark. "As a Reform Jew, there are the holidays that everybody knows about and everyone participates in," she says. "Then there are the less obvious ones [like Sukkot]. There's richness in it, and until you engage in it, you don't really understand it. You can't just hear or read about it."

Tamarkin refers to her sukkah as a temporary oasis. She loves to sit and read in it and have friends over to visit inside its romantic white gauzy walls. Last year she invited her yoga class back to have fruit in her sukkah. "It brings life to our house," she says. "People who never come over come over. There's something magical about it. It's almost like an apparition in the backyard. It's there for a little bit, and then it goes away for a year."

by Beth Kanter
Jewish Woman Magazine
Published by Jewish Women International
Fall 2009