You may have noticed in the past few weeks that a plywood box has been constructed in the middle of Siegel Field, just north of S.R. Crown Hall. This box is known as a Sukkah (from the Hebrew for “booth”) and is constructed by practicing Jewish people as part of the week-long festival of Sukkot. In this particular case, Illinois Tech Jewish life organization Hillel at IIT constructed the Sukkah on Siegel Field and hosted a lunch event in it on Thursday, September 27. Students from all backgrounds and beliefs were welcome to attend, learn more about Jewish culture, and participate in this celebration alongside members of Hillel at IIT and the Chicago-based Jewish life organization Metro Chicago Hillel (MCH), of which Hillel at IIT is a member.
Traditionally, a Sukkah is a temporary hut constructed by Jewish families during the harvest festival of Sukkot. Usually, these simple structures are topped with branches and have an open thatch roof. As described to TechNews by the members of Hillel at IIT, Jewish families will construct these structures outside of their usual homes and eat or even sleep inside for the week-long celebration. According to the Book of Vayikra (Leviticus), the Sukkah is symbolic of the time spent by the Israelites wandering the wilderness after being freed from slavery in Egypt. The festival of Sukkot is considered a joyous occasion, traditionally coinciding with the end of the agricultural year.
As part of Sukkhot, Jewish people will also perform what is known as a waving ceremony with four plants known as the Four Species. As identified in the Torah, these four plants are the Etrog (the fruit of a citron tree), the lulav (a branch from a date palm tree), the hadass (boughs with leaves from the myrtle tree), and the aravah (a branch from the willow tree). Various symbolic explanations for these plants exist, including that all four represent different parts of the human body: the lulav represents the spine, the hadass represents the eyes, the aravah represents the mouth, and the etrog represents the heart. By binding these together and waving them inside the Sukkah, Jewish people show their desire to consecrate their entire being to the service of God.
As the only Jewish life organization on campus, Hillel at IIT looks to provide opportunities for Jewish members of the Illinois Tech community to explore their religious connections together through events such as religious celebrations, informational lunches, and collaborations with MCH. Like many other Illinois Tech cultural and religious organizations, Hillel at IIT is open to all students, regardless of religious denomination and is simply a community for mutual spiritual development and learning.
MCH, meanwhile, coordinates with student chapters at a variety of Chicago colleges outside of Illinois Tech, including at DePaul University, Loyola University, Columbia College Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Roosevelt University, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and more. In its official mission statement, MCH seeks to “connect you to the next set of experiences, communities, and relationships that will provoke you to grow spiritually, intellectually, and socially.”
Photo by Ethan Castro (He/him)