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We Jews and Sukkot

We Jews and Sukkot

Do the Yuchi Indians of Oklahoma celebrate Sukkot?


As We Jews end our High Holidays, we turn to one of our most joyous celebrations: Sukkot! Sukkot, one of the three festivals, commemorates the miracle of the shelter the Jewish people received over the 40 years in the desert. While in your sukkah, here are some fascinating “Sukkot” facts to share.

Fun fact: Archaeologists unearthed a 5,000-year-old etrog seed in Iraq


From California to the New York Island, for young Jews on college campuses, as well as a number of congregations, celebrating Sukkot is a piece of cake ... make that pie. Pizza pie. To satisfy the mitzvah of eating in the Sukkah, some interesting names are being used advertise sukkah events. So, what are they calling kosher pizza night in the sukkah? “Pizza in the Hut” ... of course. There’s also “Hookah in the Sukkah,” with kosher BBQ and Mideastern music. If fish is your fare, some Hillels and synagogues are going with “Sushi in the Sukkah.” Apparently attendance was poor on campuses at last year’s “Herring in the Sukkah.”


In the days of the American colonies, Jews used colorful yellow, green, purple and red ribbons to hang from their Sukkot as streamers. Another old custom came from Iraq! Iraqi Jews fashioned birds out of hollow eggs and hung them in memory of departed family members.


According to author Ronald H. Isaacs, each year, the Yuchi Indians of Oklahoma hold an eight-day festival that’s remarkably similar to the Jewish Sukkot. They start the festival during the Holy Harvest month on the day of the full moon, dwell in foliage-covered booths, and carry and shake a leafy branch in their processional around the fire in the holy cultic area.


Deborah H. Kaplan, an Orthodox woman from Brooklyn, was a top-flight engineer, one of three females in her graduating class at Cooper Union. When the Kaplan family moved to Paramus, N.J., she learned that the local yeshiva didn’t have what they needed to celebrate Sukkot traditionally. This extraordinary woman hunkered down and solved the problem. She found a wholesale distributor of religious articles required for the holiday: lulavim and etrogim. In fact, she was able to supply not only the yeshiva, but five local shuls.

Based at The World Trade Center, the 45-year-old civil engineer and mother of four always caught the three o’clock train home to be there for them. On 9-11, tragically, she did not.


According to some experts Thanksgiving, first celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1623, was copied directly from Sukkot. Both holidays are a festival of thanksgiving to God, the giver of the Fall harvest. However as the seasons differ between Israel and New England, Sukkot, of course, precedes Thanksgiving by several months. While there are no specified foods for Sukkot, we stuff ourselves with our traditional fare … chicken soup, kugels, stuffed cabbage and challah, which for me, beats dry turkey any day.


Not only did We Jews wander, but some Jewish communities have created sukkahs that wander!

Called “sukkahmobiles” these roving sukkahs on wheels bring the holiday to the people. Each year, the Lubavitcher Hassidim tour New York City where Jews may enter their Sukkah and recite the blessings over the lulav and etrog. Among the more fascinating “sukkahmobiles” have been driven in and around Tokyo! In 2010, Rabbi Edery, Chabad Tokyo drove his to Shibuya, Shinjuku, Okachimachi, Hiroo, Ueno, Chiba, Saitama, Yokohama and many more cities as guests bless the lulav etrog. Now that’s what I call “The Happy Wanderers!” – for a change.


In 2012 Behrman House released these fascinating Sukkot facts:

The Oldest Etrog Seeds? -Archaeologists have unearthed 5,000-year-old etrog seeds in ancient Mesopotamia (modern Iraq). The etrog of course, is one of the four species Torah commands us to use in the Sukkot celebration. (Vayikra 23:40).

Dreamtime! According to The Talmud, dreaming about an etrog means that God considers us precious.

One Huge Sukkah: In 2011, The Jerusalem Municipality and Israel Electric Company built the world's largest sukkah that included 2.5 miles of electrical wiring to light 144,000 miniature light bulbs.


The beauty and architectural challenge of sukkahs have in recent years, fascinated mavens. Contests are often the norm, worldwide to showcase the most innovative. Some of the more adventurous include.

1. The Totally Detroit Shipping Crate Sukkah

2. The Sukkah Boat in Venice (how appropriate that Venice should have a sukkah boat!)

3. The Portlandian Sukkah Bike. Although the origin of the PediSukkah is Brooklyn, the Portland Bike works well in the rugged State of flannel and bikes.

4. “The Scrunchiest Sukkah”: Israel has been the home of the teeniest sukkah which is 22 inches square and 32 inches high. Perfect if you suffer from Social Anxiety.

5. “Sukkah Hits the Peak”: That’s Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs. Each year a Sukkah shows up at The Peak, half the height of Mt. Everest. This one certainly celebrates the loftiness of the holiday.

6. The Flatbed Truck Sukkah in Times Square: This big-rig Sukkah matches the majesty of the Big White Way.

7. The World Peace Sukkah in the Jewish Monkland Centre in Montreal, made of recycled cardboard was created to honor peace.

8. Camel Sukkahs: Yes, one can even sit atop a camel!

In March of 2013, one of the offerings at the Washington Jewish Film Festival was a documentary by Jason Hutt, called “Sukkah City.” The film was about an architectural Sukkah competition. Said Hutt … “"There's so much competing for our time and our energy in the digital world that unless we come up with ways to make these ancient rituals speak to our current generation, then people are just going to discard them and they're going to be lost." But more,

"It's about ritual. It's about creativity, and it's also about the things we do either as Jews or as anyone else in this world, to give our lives meaning."

So my friends … let’s meet in the hut! You bring the pizza!

September 24, 2015

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Visitor Comments: 3

(1) Reuven Frank, September 25, 2015 4:17 AM

Gemara & Yuchis

Most of the cases you bring, on a camel, on a ship, etc. are DIRECT examples from the Gemara, written over 2000 years ago, and given to Moses more then a thousand years before that!
I did a paper once on the Native-Americans and their bond with Judaism. To give just one example, they have a saying, "Great Spirit, help me to not judge my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his moccasins." (This is a direct quote from Mishlay, if you substitute "stood in his footsteps for the NA equivalent.) So it doesn't surprise me that they celebrate Sukkot.
BTW, their word for Great Spirit, "Manito" can be read in Aramaic meaning, "Who is with Him?"

marnie, September 27, 2015 12:27 AM


Thanks Reuven. I found exactly the same thing. Your adds are perfect.

Shalom with love,


Yosef Rafael, December 28, 2017 11:13 AM

On the languages of the natives

Reb Reuven, I too have noticed things among the natives that are similar to Jewish custom, among them being flood myths (myth as in the dictionary definition). However, I express some dubiosity about the Yuchi word "manito."

Firstly, Yuchi is a linguistic isolate. This means that no matter how hard you try, you an never link its genealogy to another language family. This applies to grammar as well as vocabulary.
Secondly, of two words with similar meanings in different tongues, this oft does not imply relation or borrowing at times. In Dyrbal (from Australia), the word for dog is "dog," but the name actually descended from the word "gudaga."
Thirdly, there obviously was no borrowing betwixt the two languages.
Zai gezunt and keep well.

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