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Chabad ASU goes mobile with Sukkah on wheels

The Pedi-Sukkah will be at ASU dorms on Sept. 30

Mendy Rimler.jpg

 Outreach director at Chabad Jewish Student Center at ASU, Rabbi Mendy Rimler, poses for a photo with the valley's first pedi-Sukkah in Tempe, Arizona, on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018.

The Jewish community at ASU is taking a new spin on the traditional sukkah, a structure used in celebration of the Jewish holiday Sukkot, with a Pedi-Sukkah. 

While the Sukkah tradition is long standing at ASU and around the world, the Pedi-Sukkah, a Sukkah attached to the back of a bike, is making its debut on the Tempe campus this year.

The seven-day festival Sukkot traditionally celebrates the bounty of harvest, and its name commemorates the temporary dwellings used to protect the travelers during throughout the 40 years Jewish ancestors spent in the Sinai Desert during their pilgrimage from Egypt to Jerusalem. 

Modern day Jews build their own sukkahs annually for Sukkot, five days after Yom Kippur, in remembrance and as an expression of unity.

“We build the structure to remind us no matter how great our achievements might be and how tall our buildings, we always need to remember to have faith in God and never be silent toward our source of all our blessings,” said Rabbi Mendy Rimler, outreach director at Chabad Jewish Student Center at ASU

The celebration of the holiday is filled with traditions including the sukkah dwellings and 'four kinds' each aiming to express and celebrate unity, Rimler said.

“We come together despite our differences to celebrate a shared humanity and kindness which should be a universal value shown for everyone,” Rimler said. 

Practicing Jews take different approaches to the celebration, but building and dwelling in the sukkah remains at the center of the celebration. 

Hannah Widawer, a tourism development and management senior and president of Chabad at ASU, said the sukkah is used as a location to eat meals, spend time with family and friends and celebrate the spirit of Sukkot.

“You use the sukkah as you would your house,” Widawer said. 

While there are many ways members of the Jewish community can get involved with the holiday on campus, Widawer said the on-campus sukkah gives a platform for increased understanding and visibility of the Jewish community. 

“Students who are curious are welcome to visit the sukkah to learn more about the holiday,” Widawer said. 

Annually, all of the Jewish organizations on campus exemplify the spirit of unity of the holiday to build the community sukkah located near the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus.

“We all come together in one structure – in one Sukkah,” Rimler said. 

First introduced in New York by 16-year-old Levi Duchman in 2009, the Pedi-Sukkah has since been used in college campuses across the nation and cities around the world. 

The Pedi-Sukkah can be spotted on campus from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m through Sept. 28 and at the dorms on Sunday, Sept. 30. Both Jewish and non-Jewish students are invited to visit any of the Sukkah structures on campus, but Rimler said the unique Pedi-Sukkah is hard to miss.  

“It’s not everyday you see a 6-to-7 foot structure riding around on the back of a bike,” Rimler said. "The Sukkah tradition is always a standing structure, so the Pedi-Sukkah is truly a groundbreaking idea."

Rabbi Shmuel Tiechtel, founding director of Chabad at ASU, was on campus Tuesday with the Pedi-Sukkah and said the response from the community was heartwarming. 

Itai Kreisler, a biomedical graduate student and active member of the ASU Jewish community, said he thinks the Pedi-Sukkah is “phenomenal.”

Kreisler said the Pedi-Sukkah catches people’s attention and might attract members of the Jewish community who don’t typically participate in events to come over and “say hi.”

“It is just such a great show of Jewish pride,” Kreisler said. 

The Pedi-Sukkah not only adds to the vibrancy of the Jewish community at ASU, but Rimler said it helps forward the central idea of unity embedded in Sukkot.

“We have a message for all people that we’re all one people and we are all one large ASU community,” Rimler said. 

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