What makes a lulav and etrog kosher? How many walls does a sukkah need to have? These are all questions that many of us remember learning in school when we were children. Ohr Chadash Academy’s (OCA) sixth and seventh graders put the lessons they learned about Sukkot to practical use by lending a helping hand to the Tikva House, the Jewish Caring Network’s (JCN) sponsored house where Jewish families can stay when caring for a loved one receiving treatment at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.
On Thursday, Sept. 28, the day before Erev Yom Kippur, the OCA middle school arrived in downtown Baltimore bright and early and worked for several hours to assemble two sukkot at the Tikva House. Accompanied by Rabbi Evan Weiner, Rabbi Gershon Riselsheimer, Reb Uri Rabinowitz, Mrs. Rivki Lichter, and Ravid and Shachar (OCA bnot sherut, Israeli national service volunteers), the students worked as a team to organize the sukkah pieces before building the sukkah frames. They made sure that the straps were attached as tightly as possible to ensure that the walls of the sukkot remained kosher. Then the class rolled out the bamboo mats for the roof, ran the electrical wiring, and hung lights for the sukkah. No sukkah is complete without beautiful decorations, and the students used their artistic talents to decorate the sukkot with love using beautiful lights, posters, streamers, and a student-designed centerpiece.
Prior to arriving at the Tikva House, classes visited The Sukkah Depot to select a lulav and etrog for those families who spent their Yom Tov at the Tikva House. They took great care to examine the different lulavim and etrogim and to confirm that the set that they selected not only met all of the halachic requirements but was also a set befitting the people who would benefit from its use.
Stacey Goldenberg, JCN director of operations, contacted the OCA middle school to express her gratitude for the middle school’s efforts on behalf of the Tikva House and shared how impressed she was with the efforts of the children and staff. The middle school was thrilled to be able to double dip on mitzvot by purchasing the luvavim and etrogim, building the sukkot, and — equally as important — helping to bring joy to people who spent their Yom Tov away from home. This project kicked off a year-long partnership between OCA and JCN.
By Lanie Carter