October 13, 2023

Celebrating Sukkot and the Fall Harvest at JGS Lifecare

Sukkot decorating with a group of kids who visited Ruths House

On Sukkot, one of the most joyous of the Jewish holidays, we remember the temporary shelters God provided for the Israelites as they trekked through the desert on their way to the Promised Land. We remember too the temporary booths the Israelite farmers dwelled in, as they went out to their fields and labored to bring in the fall harvest. This year, Sukkot celebrations were enjoyed by many residents on the JGS Lifecare campus, as they are each year, with various activities throughout the 8 day celebration.

With the help of Mick Machia and his able team in the Maintenance Dept., one sukkah was erected on the A-1 courtyard of the Leavitt Family Jewish Home and two were put up outside Ruth’s House Assisted Living. At Ruth’s House, the family of our board chairman, Stuart Anfang, and his wife Michelle, have supported The Anfang Sukkot Celebration, which helps support programming that takes place in our Ruth’s House sukkot. Thank you, Stuart and Michelle! With the help of the 4-5th grade students at Yeshiva Academy and their teachers Mrs. Chani Cohen and Mrs. Mushki Ostrozynski as well as LYA Director of Adult Education and Community Relations Rabbi Yakov Wolff, the three sukkot were beautifully decorated, as residents looked on in admiration and some even helped hang a gourd or two.

Jewish law tells us how to build a sukkah and there are often interesting variations. But the sukkah will always end up appearing as a slightly rickety tent-like structure, bedecked with a roof (s’chach) made of organic materials like tree branches or bamboo. Most importantly, it is built to be only a temporary structure, taken down and put away after the holiday until next year’s celebrations. As we sit inside our sukkah, surrounded by a mixture of shade and sun, it reminds us of the impermanence of all things, including all of life.

“I always enjoy watching the residents shake the lulav and etrog, “remarked Rabbi Devorah Jacobson, director of Spiritual Life at JGS Lifecare. She was referring to the holiday tradition of waving the Four Species, including the lulav, comprised of the leaves of the date palm, myrtle and willow while holding an etrog, a sweet smelling citron. Waving the lulav and etrog in all directions points to God’s presence throughout the universe and our gratitude for our bounty and blessings.

At both Ruth’s House and the Leavitt Family Jewish Home, residents enjoyed special festival meals, religious services and periodic visits to the sukkah during the week, at tea time. For many it was a time of reminiscing. As Delila Jones, Director of Life Enrichment at Ruth’s House, reflected, “Our residents shared memories of their childhood, including the ways they helped their families build the sukkah. It’s wonderful to see how they still enjoy visiting the sukkah — to sit, meditate, sing, pray, read, eat or just rejoice in the beauty of the fall season. It really is a special place and it brings back special memories.”