Thousands of Jews of all walks of life, young and old, men and women, single, married and entire families turned up for the final celebrations of the fall Jewish holidays of Sukkot and Simhat Torah across hundreds of FSU communities this year.
Sukkot, when Jews are commanded to live in temporary dwellings, or Sukkas, has certain peculiarities across the region due to harsher climate and the public nature of the holiday. Hundreds of large Sukkas were built by community members near the synagogues, where everyone was welcome to participate in the celebration under roofs of pine tree branches. The participants waved the four species, ate festive meals and took part in endless musical performances, master classes, workshops and activities, all taking place in the sukkah.
“The holidays brought together people from different backgrounds and ages into one real family. Everyone sat together at the table, as part of a chain of generations that illuminated the meaning of the holiday,” said Rabbi Grishin from Oryol Jewish community, Central Russia. The community saw over 300 guests during the holidays, among them many children.
Elderly Jews all over the region, who were home-bound and could not leave the house, were visited by volunteers from EnerJew youth clubs and other programs. They blew shofars, brought with them the four species as well as provided for material needs, delivering food and treats for the holidays.
As for the final holiday of the cycle, Simhat Torah, it carries a special significance for the former Soviet Union communities, as a symbol of Jewish national expression during the years of Communist rule. Throughout the years, it was the only holiday that, for some reason, the regime allowed to mark more openly, and often turned into a demonstration of Jewish unity and identity. Therefore Simhat Torah celebrations, with their singing and dancing around the Torah Scroll were as joyous as ever this year, the festivities spilling onto adjacent streets and drawing in the passerby.