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MIT Hillel Dedicates New Sukkah

By Brian Rosenberg
Editor in Chief

MIT Hillel dedicated a new sukkah Sunday after more than two years of design, planning, and construction. The sukkah, a booth used in celebrating the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot, was designed and built entirely by students.

"This is a wonderful day for the entire community," said Phillip J. Walsh, director of the Campus Activities Complex, which loaned space on the patio outside Walker Memorial for the new sukkah.

Hillel President Michelle Greene '93 was extremely pleased with the sukkah. "It's really fabulous, and I'm glad it got done on time. I hope it becomes a lasting part of the community and stays around longer than anyone who built it," she said.

"This sukkah will remind the general community that there are Jews here who can, and do, contribute to the quality of life at MIT," said Rabbi Daniel Shevitz.

Made entirely of wood, the new sukkah replaces an aluminum and canvas structure that had been in use for more than 10 years, Hillel members said. Shevitz explained that he began thinking about a new Sukkah in 1990, when the old sukkah collapsed two days before Sukkot and had to be hastily rebuilt. Even after being reinforced, the structure was not very stable, he said.

Pressure to construct a new sukkah increased last year after the aluminum frame of the old sukkah was accidentally thrown away. "The older structure was put in the dumpster as the result of an over-zealous cleaning of the space occupied by several theater groups," Walsh explained. The frame had been stored in a room adjoining the Musical Theater Guild workshop in the basement of Walker.

The sukkah design was begun soon after. Tzviyah Rosenstock G and Avigail Shimshoni G submitted plans for the structure. At the dedication ceremony, Rosenstock expressed satisfaction with the constructed sukkah. "It's great when you put something down on paper, and it goes up and looks the same," she said. "Architects often have to worry about the gap between intention and effect, but this time there wasn't one," she added.

The sukkah, which cost an estimated $4000, was funded by grants from Jewish organizations such as the Jewish Student Projects of Greater Boston and the North American Jewish Student Appeal. The MIT Finance Board also contributed money for the project.

Jordan Dentz '88, Joseph M. Milner G, and Jonathon M. Walton '94 directed and organized the sukkah's construction. All the labor that went into the sukkah was "performed by students in their spare time," according to Shevitz. "A lot of good people did a lot of work to get this done," Milner said. "It was a tremendous experience to see graduate and undergraduate students working together, and it came together wonderfully," he added.

Daniel J. Thumim '94, who helped with the sukkah's construction, agreed. "One of the nicest things about it is that so many people helped put it together -- it belongs to the whole community," he said.

The sukkah will be disassembled Sunday and placed in an MIT warehouse until next fall, Shevitz said.