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Woodward Community Builds Sukkah for Jewish Holiday

On a Sunday in September, members of the Woodward community came together to build a sukkah on campus in celebration of Sukkot, a major Jewish festival held in the autumn to celebrate the gathering of the harvest and commemorate the sheltering of the Israelites in the wilderness when they left Egypt.

Members of the Yad B'Yad student club, joined by other community members, built the structure on the Upper School campus with the leadership of faculty member Traci Lerner and her family and Yad B’Yad adviser Brian Keith Jackson and help from Jose and Carolina Portugal, friends of Woodward and master builders, faculty member David Roth, and the Woodward Landscaping Department, among others. The Hebrew word "sukkah" can be translated into English as "hut" or "booth." During the week of September 24-28, students were invited to gather to sit inside the sukkah or eat lunch there.

Traditionally, Jews eat their meals and spend as much time as possible in the sukkah throughout the week-long celebration of Sukkot. The Talmud, the primary text of Rabbinic law and theology, provides that the sukkah should have at least three walls and organic roofing material. Roofing material typically consists of thatches or branches, and it is traditional to decorate the sukkah with fruits and fragrant plants. It is also customary to say special prayers during Sukkot and to read from the Torah. The building of the sukkah was truly a celebratory event, not only for our Jewish students and faculty but also for non-Jewish students and faculty.

More About Programming for Jewish Students at Woodward

A deep respect for difference is a way of life at Woodward Academy, and learning from and embracing our varied religious faiths is an important part of our school culture. Woodward is closed for major religious holidays including Jewish holidays, and we offer our Jewish students many avenues to honor their traditions and share them with students of other faiths.

In grades pre-K to six, students learn from Upper School Jewish student leaders who mentor them and teach them about holidays and culture. Our younger students can also join interfaith clubs where they can share their faith and learn about others. In the Middle School, we support our Jewish students as they prepare for their Bat and Bar Mitzvahs, and seventh and eighth graders can join the Jewish-themed Book Club and Interfaith Club.

In ninth through 12th grade, opportunities expand and include a Comparative Religions course that encompasses study of Judaism as well as a Multicultural, Ethnic, and DIversity Studies class that devotes time to studying Jewish history in the United States. The Upper School offers the Yad B’Yad club led by Rabbi Dave Silverman, who guides study of the Torah, creates a dialogue around issues of Jewish identity and community, and even invites students into his home for Shabbat dinner. In the Upper School, we also offer the Jewish teen engagement initiative JumpSpark as well as field trips to the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival and the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum. Students also can take part in Interfaith Prayer Services and join peers from other traditions on an annual interfaith immersion trip that includes synagogue visits.


Brian Keith Jackson, Upper School teacher

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