Sukkot is perhaps the Jewish Holiday that best suits the preschooler mind. It is, like Passover, a reminder of the Exodus; but it also celebrates the very concrete experience of the harvest. At this time of the year, in the East Coast many farms open their orchards to the public and most of our students experience apple picking first hand. Sukkot expands this experience and gives it more depth.
Building and decorating a sukkah is perhaps the most exciting part of the holiday. Every child makes something to decorate the sukkah, and the process involves much more the actual creating of a craft project. Along the way we explore foods that come from plants, we separate fruits from nuts and seeds, we taste and smell new things and marvel at the amazing bounty that is offered us.
And of course the sukkah is a fascinating place in itself, so it comes up in their play and different representation pop up in every classroom. Some groups made small for their dolls, others built them with blocks, and yet others made them big enough to get inside! But every group worked hard at figuring out what worked and what didn't work, all of them had to negotiate and come up with creative solutions.
During the whole festival we are also learning about our identity and the traditions that make up our Jewish experience. Shana, our Jewish Education Specialist, visits every classroom, bringing the lulav (and how perfect is a holiday that provides a preschool child with something to shake in every direction!) and the etrog to all of us and helping us better understand the meaning of the holiday. We are lucky to have our backyard sukkah where we can have snack to fulfill the mitzvah, and Rabbi Scheinberg's songs bring a true sense of joy and celebration.