The sun shone hot last Thursday afternoon as Reed students lined up to make sushi on the Quad. All week, a Sukkah, a small rectangular structure with a bamboo-mat roof, stood in the middle of the Quad outside Commons to celebrate the week-long Jewish holiday of Sukkot. In front of the Sukkah, students crowded around several tables that held trays of sticky rice, fresh and roasted veggies, nori, and lox. Finished students were standing in and around the Sukkah eating their finished products, while other students lined up behind the tables waiting to make sushi.
The Bialo family runs Reed’s Chabad House, The Center for Jewish Life and Learning. For Sukkot, Chabad built the Sukkah on campus, and threw their annual “Sushi in the Sukkah” event for all students to participate in the holiday.
The origins for the holiday of Sukkot can be found in the book of Exodus, when the Israelites left Egypt and headed through the desert. “We sit in booths [to] remind us of the Jewish people traveling in the desert,” Rabbi Dov Bialo said.
Sukkot follows the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, which involves a full day of fasting and prayer. “In Yom Kippur we are cleansing ourselves and starting a new beginning. Yom Kippur is a serious day, so we can’t celebrate. Because of this, Sukkot is the holiday where we celebrate,” Bialo said.
This celebratory mood is part of the reason behind the event, according to Bialo. “It’s called the holiday of joy, and part of being joyous is to include others,” he said. “It’s a holiday of sharing. We do this Sukkah event so that the whole campus can be included in the event.”
First-year Ella Chadwick had noticed the Sukkah being built the previous Sunday and came to check out the event. “I’d seen them set up the Sukkah and I was wondering how they’d get Reed students involved. And there is sushi, which is something I enjoy, so I wanted to observe and eat,” Chadwick said.
Chadwick wasn’t the only one drawn by the enticing thought of free, handmade sushi. First-year Alice Wang participated in the event as well after hearing from a friend what was going on. “[I was told] there was sushi and I like sushi, so I am here. I think it’s great, it’s good to make my own sushi. They have everything that I want in sushi and it’s better than my expectation,” said Wang.
The event also brought senior and former Chabad student leader Samantha Nunberg to the Sukkah. Nunberg talked about the holiday being the joyous counterpart to Yom Kippur in a similar vein as Bialo. “Sukkot is always a really great way to cap off the new year, just coming out of Yom Kippur which is a very somber holiday. It is a great occasion to get together with friends and family and think about what is grounding and meaningful,” Nunberg said.
Nunberg added that the Sukkah is a reminder to leave the comfortable indoors and connect with nature. “Eating in a construction outside that we made outside, is such a beautiful celebration of life and family,” she said. “It’s an incredible holiday. Many of the things we do are indoors and this holiday forces us to go outside and appreciate the earth.”
With the Sukkah so centrally placed outside Commons, Nunberg reiterated that it was an invitation to the entire campus to participate. “Everyone is welcome in. Everyone gets to be hands on, making something and participating in the event,” she said.
Bialo estimated that between 80 and 120 students stopped by to make and enjoy sushi and participate in the holiday. Happy Sukkot!