STUDENTS, STAFF AND COMMUNITY CELEBRATE FESTIVAL
Rumor has it that it’s the biggest sukkah in Atlanta, and while this claim can’t be verified, the Greenfield Hebrew Academy’s sukkah is certainly among the busiest.
During Chol HaMoed, the sukkah welcomed all GHA students for lunch, as usual. They enjoyed the novelty of eating in this al fresco version of the cafeteria – decorations brightening the walls and light dappling the room as it twinkled through bamboo mats and paper chains – but as just as important as the meal were the very special holiday activities arranged by Judaics teachers Debbie Bornstein, Rachel Buckman and Rabbi Israel Robinson and held within the temporary shelter.
To being the proceedings GHA music teacher Dona Wise led all the children from first to eighth grade in a series of drum circles. With the help of Wise’s middle school music students, budding percussionists chose from a wide variety of un-pitched instruments and separated themselves into sections.
Wise then taught each section its assigned rhythm: The “skins” (drums) thumped “I love my sukkah,” the “woods” (wooden percussion) played “hang the fruit,” and the “metals” (tambourines) shook their instruments to a rising and prolonged cheer of “Sukkot!” and the sukkah positively rocked with the rhythm.
Afterwards, B’not Sherut Ateret Kfir and Linor Nachum took over the microphone to announce a competition for “best edible sukkah.” The students, split into groups, received bowls of marshmallow fluff, tea biscuits, fruit roll-ups and a frankly bewildering array of candy for construction purposes.
“No, no, don’t eat the licorice,” third-grader Jonah Gordon admonished his team. “We need it for the s’chach!”
Classmate Elliot Sokol interjected another practical tip.
“Hey, guys: You forgot the door.”
There was only one best sukkah, but everyone walked away a winner, as all the entries tasted delicious. And speaking of tasting, that was the highlight for fourth-grader Mickey Covitz.
“Building the sukkah was the most fun,” he explained, “because we got to eat it!”
Then, later in the festival week (Oct. 5, the third day of Chol HaMoed), GHA’s sukkah continued in its starring role as third- and fourth-graders welcomed family members to the sukkah for VIP (Very Important Person) Day. Parents, grandparents and other special people joined their students in the sukkah, where they engaged in chavruta (one-on-one) study with each other.
Third graders covered Abraham’s journey to Canaan, while fourth graders discussed Jacob’s dream of angels. Armed with chumashim and surrounded by the hum of Torah study, Gabby Stark shared the finer points of Jacob’s dream with her teenaged brother Matthew, while further down the table, Yonatan Levy and his recently transplanted grandmother Malka Braunstein talked about how it feels to move,and what it might have been like for Abraham to go somewhere he’d never seen.
All the while, Buckman and Rabbi Robinson watched their students eagerly expounding on the Torah they had studied.
“It’s so gratifying to see how much they’ve learned and how happy they are to share it,” Buckman said. “Their VIPs are proud of them, I’m proud of them and, most importantly, they’re proud of themselves.”
Rabbi Lee Buckman, Greenfield Hebrew Academy Head of School, reflected as he stood at the window that overlooks the bamboo patchwork of the sukkah roof.
“At GHA, we’re not just teaching Torah as an abstract subject, another part of the school day. Our students live the things they learn,” he said. “We integrate Torah into their everyday lives. Our sukkah is decorated by students, used by students, and lived in by students.
“At GHA, it’s just the place to be on Sukkot.”
Editor’s note: Leah Levy is a paraprofessional at GHA and the author of “The Waiting Wall,” a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for 2010.
By Leah Levy