While many local high school students were sitting in class or relaxing at lunch on a recent Wednesday afternoon, 16 boys from the Boys’ Latin School of Maryland and Gilman School gathered in a sukkah to celebrate the final day of Sukkot.
“Introduce yourselves. Say what grade you’re in and what your favorite holiday is,” Boys’ Latin junior Matt Sacks instructed the group, as the boys settled into plastic chairs set up inside the hut.
While none of the participants named Sukkot as his favorite holiday, opting instead for the more popular Passover or Chanukah, all the students seemed to be enjoying the opportunity to get together, share some snacks and unwind outside.
Many of the boys know each other from activities outside of school, but holiday celebrations give them an opportunity to get together to celebrate their faith.
“We take turns hosting it,” Boys’ Latin Jewish Awareness Club supervisor Eric Whitehair said of the relationship the club has with Jewish clubs from other local schools. “This year it was us, so we wanted to invite our neighbors in the nearby community to come by and celebrate with us.”
The sukkah the club used was provided through a partnership with Teens Can IDENTIFY, a program of the Macks Center for Jewish Education, which provides cultural resources for independent high school campuses in the Baltimore area. The materials came in a kit that has been used at a number of different area schools, but that didn’t make the process of constructing the hut any easier, said Whitehair.
“From what I hear through the grapevine, the Friends School club got [theirs] up in like 20 minutes,” he said. “It took us the better part of an hour.”
The club built the sukkah on the patio in front of the upper school, adjacent to the soccer field and just a few yards from the main door.
“I wanted the sukkah to be right here,” said Whitehair, “because it’s someplace where folks can see it, and either, if they know what a sukkah is, they can say, ‘Great, look, there’s a sukkah,’ or if they don’t, they can say, ‘Hey, what’s that?’”
After planning the event since the second week of school, the boys constructed the hut on Sept. 20, the first Friday of Sukkot. For group leaders Matt Sacks, Jake Rubenstein, Danny Robinson and Josh Lurie, it was their first time setting up a sukkah in a long time. The effort started with about seven or eight boys, but in the heat and then the rain, they said, the group quickly dwindled to just a few.
Although they were still required to be in their regular classes, the group took time that day to gather in the sukkah to hold their meeting, enjoy some food and decorate the interior, which, on the final day, was adorned with strings of fake fruit and small lights.
As the group huddled in the sukkah to celebrate the end of the holiday, they passed around the lulav and etrog and discussed the origins of the holiday and the traditions connected with it. A group leader from Boys’ Latin asked the group about their past experiences celebrating Sukkot. A brief silence followed before one boy, referencing the movie “American Pie,” started: “This one time at Sukkot …” and the celebration fell into laughter.