(lubavitch.com) Josh Zeldner has his work cut out for him.
The recent University of Colorado graduate will spend the entire Thursday and Friday assembling 300 rolls of sushi. “The numbers [30 pounds of fresh fish and several gallons of rice] are absurd,” laughs Zeldner, “but it will all get eaten. Definitely.”
Zeldner’s sushi marathon is in honor of the upcoming holiday of Sukkot which begins Friday evening. His creations will be consumed by 200 students at UC Boulder’s annual Sushi in the Sukkah event. Though he graduated last year, and is currently employed at a local sushi restaurant, Zeldner still feels close ties to his alma mater’s Chabad.
“I just signed an additional year’s lease on my apartment here,” he says, “and I love being involved with Chabad and helping out. Many of my friends who graduated are also sticking around Boulder, and staying involved.”
Though Zeldner spent every autumn helping his father erect the family sukkah, he says there is something unique about this campus hut. Several engineering students joined Rabbi Yisroel Wilhelm in building the 1,100 square foot structure and well over 300 students will dine, visit, and shake the lulav and etrog (“four species”) there next week. The wooden sukkah was painted with Jewish themed art last year to accentuate its importance and to deter rambunctious students from knocking it down after football games as they did for several years running.
“Throughout the High Holidays we emphasized to the students that immediately following the ‘days of awe’ come days of joy,” explains director Leah Wilhelm. “Everyone waits for this party of the year.”
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Passerby asked when the holiday begins and made plans to attend Chabad’s various Sukkot events. Next week, hundreds are expected to take a break from frantic midterms studying at a midnight sukkah party, complete with falafel and hookah.
Rivkin, who has served the local student body for a decade, believes the holiday sells itself. “Students appreciate the chance to do a mitzvah in the sukkah,” he maintains. “And the matzah ball soup served hot all week is a big draw.”
Chabad on campus directors use different and creative means to attract students to their temporary dwellings. In conjunction with their individual schools, hundreds of campus rabbis are erecting huts of all sizes and hosting Sushi in the Sukkah events, Dinners under the Stars, and Pizza in the Hut parties. The place to be, for this one week, is the sukkah and Chabad centers are going all out to welcome students in.
With a staggering 80 percent of Jewish 18-21 year olds studying on campuses worldwide, reaching out to them has become a dedicated endeavor. Undoubtedly, making the connection early in the semester is a key aspect to the success of that relationship. What better way than over a hot bowl of soup on a cool evening, al fresco.
The nights are barely chilly in Davis, where average temperatures are hovering in the high 70s, and Sorele Brownstein is looking forward to the sukkah her husband will construct for the students at the University of California. Since vandals sprayed Chabad’s sukkah with anti-Semitic slogans two years ago, university officials have been wary of allowing them to build on campus. Instead, explains Brownstein, they will have a sukkah at their home, a short walk from the school’s center, and an additional hut near student housing. She expects 40 people to join them for holiday dinners.
Further up the coast, Rabbi Elie Estrin is putting the finishing touches on his 12 foot by 18 foot sukkah located near the heart of the University of Washington’s campus. The first night of Sukkot coincides with the first Shabbat of the semester (school began on Wednesday) and Estrin expects 90 students to join his family for dinner. Friday also corresponds with his 30th birthday. Over traditional Shabbat fare and a massive birthday cake in the sukkah, Estrin plans to “do a lot of introspection with the students and figure out where we are headed over the next decade.” The lessons of the holiday, he says, are particularly poignant for students in this transient stage.
“During this time in their lives, students put up and take down with ease,” explains Estrin. “Every quarter they are somewhere else, doing something else. The message of the sukkah is to live permanently in a structure that is not permanent; you must make the most of whichever stage of life you are in.”