Sukkot and the Artprize Competition

Divre Harav – November, 2010 – Sukkot and the Artprize Competition

Part of the mission of Congregation Ahavas Israel is to be a resource for people who want to explore a Jewish path to God.   As a congregation, we have presented various educational outreach programs to teach members of the Christian community about Jewish holidays and rituals.   Our Passover Seder Experience has been a very successful outreach program, teaching church communities about the elements of an authentic Seder.  My sense is that most Christians have heard of Hanukkah and Yom Kippur, although they may not really know the significance of the holidays.  However, to most people outside of the Jewish community, Sukkot is completely unknown.  They don’t realize that holiday that their Bible calls the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths is still celebrated by the Jewish community in much the same way as it was thousands of years ago.

This past September, to raise Sukkot awareness, a competition called Sukkah City took place in New York.  Rules were published outlining how to build a Sukkah according to halakha.  Entries were submitted.  Twelve finalists were chosen by a panel of jurors.  The finalists were invited to build and display the sukkot in Union Square Park.  One winner was chosen by popular vote.  Does this remind you of a little competition we held here in Grand Rapids, called Artprize?  The organizers and funders of Sukkah city want to expand the competition to cities around the world next year.

During Sukkot, I, like many of you, enjoyed the Artprize competition.  I enjoyed walking around looking at the variety of pieces of art. At some point it occurred to me that Artprize would be a great opportunity to teach about Sukkot.

I am imagining a Sukkah decorated outside and inside with prose and poetry and pictures about the meaning of the Sukkah, the message of the Sukkah and by extension the message of Judaism.  It would be an exploration of homelessness and insecurity versus permanence and rootedness.  It would explore the roots of the American Thanksgiving, and the growing interest in food production and community supported agriculture.

I am not an artist, an engineer, or a carpenter.  This is not a project that I have the skills to coordinate.  I’m just tossing out the idea to see if anyone is up for designing a Sukkah and entering it into the Artprize competition next year.  I’m envisioning a small committee, sponsored by the synagogue, of a few people to design and build the structure, and a few people to create the messages on the walls.  If this is an idea that appeals to you, please contact me.  I will help you create an ad hoc committee to get started in preparation for next year’s Artprize.

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