This fall, Cornell University made history with its own custom-built Sukkah on the Arts Quad, right in the middle of campus. This Sukkah was a unique collaboration between Cornell Hillel and students in the Architecture department. Guiding them and consulting every step of the way was OU-JLIC Educator, Rabbi Daniel Kasdan.
Architecture students began their design work over the summer, trying to find an innovative way to teach the campus about the holiday of Sukkot. Though they wanted the Sukkah to be a one-of-a-kind architectural statement, Cornell Hillel also wanted to insure the Sukkah would be halachically acceptable and comfortable for all observant students. For this task, Rabbi Kasdan was brought on as an honorary member of the design team. He had to field many uncommon Sukkah-building questions, and was given the opportunity to approve all blueprints and supplies. When the Sukkah walls were going up and schach placed, Rabbi Kasdan supervised as all Cornell community members were invited to help actually construct the Sukkah.
Over Sukkot, the Sukkah was packed with events and programming. Student meetings were held in the Sukkah, different denominational groups and cultural clubs hosted Sukkot events, and many found the Sukkah to be a good change of venue for their studying. OU-JLIC Educators Sarah and Rabbi Kasdan hosted a Friday night dinner in the Sukkah, with over forty students. According to the online Sukkah “guest book” over 160 students checked into the Sukkah.
Though this project was the first of its kind, the Kasdans and the rest of the Cornell Hillel team hopes it becomes an annual campus tradition!
Written by Hani Lowenstein, Associate Director of Community Projects, OU-JLIC