St. Louisans prepare for Sukkot


Families and congregations throughout the St. Louis Jewish community took advantage of the beautiful weather to begin building their sukkot in preparation for the upcoming holiday. The timing was perfect with Yom Kippur ending on Saturday evening still leaving a weekend day available. The booths could be seen going up all around town at private homes, congregations, day schools, retirement centers and nursing homes.

In fact, the celebration of the holiday has increased over the years at area congregations. Many have special events for families, religious schools and youth groups. Some match members with a sukkah with members who do not have a sukkah so everyone can share the experience. There is something to be said for the fairly nice weather St. Louis normally has when Sukkot is celebrated.

Advertisement for the J

Rabbi Daniel Plotkin of B’nai El grew up in Milwaukee, Wisc. where he is fairly certain weather had an impact on how many people put up a sukkah, especially when the holiday fell later in the year. He feels having the nicer weather in St. Louis encourages more people to participate in the traditions.

“More congregants are actively involved in the holiday,” Rabbi Plotkin said. “I have also noticed a steady increase in attendance at Sukkot services over the past couple of years.”

Ralph Willen was one of the many people seen lugging the two-by-fours and lattice work out of B’nai El Congregation on the Sunday following Yom Kippur. B’nai El and Saul Mirowitz Day School, which is housed in the synagogue, build their sukkot side-by-side. The congregational families and day school families build them together and share a pizza lunch on building day. Coordinating the sukkot means there is more space for the school and the congregation to have meals, holiday activities and services, said Rabbi Plotkin.

Of course sharing meals in the sukkah is a very important part of the holiday. Director of the Jewish Community Center Helene Mirowitz Department of Jewish Community Life Rabbi Brad Horwitz grew up as part of Conservative Jewish community in Los Angeles where it was quite common for a family to have a sukkah. Rabbi Horwitz said he always makes sure to invite people over who do not have their own sukkah so they can share a meal and experience the holiday.

“It was always my mom’s favorite holiday,” Rabbi Horwitz said. “She was able to open her home and got to invite as many people as possible to visit and share a meal.”

Rachelli Zachary grew up on a kibbutz in Israel. She has lived in the United States for the past 11 years and has lived for the past four years is St. Louis. She has fond memories of groups of families on the kibbutz each building a sukkah together.

“I think about Sukkot as more of an Israeli holiday, than Jewish holiday,” Zachary said.

This is the second year Parkway Central High School sophomore David MacRunnel has helped build the sukkot for B’nai El and SMDS-RJA. He had a great time last year and was looking forward to helping out again. He said he learns a little bit more about the holiday each time he helps out.

“The kids like to decorate the sukkah and eat in it,” MacRunnel said. “It really is a fun holiday for kids.”