Sukkot of Peace

by Laurie Bellet

I love the holidays so intensely that I generally reprise them, each summer, with my campers. This past August, I was doing a Sukkot warm-up, to be certain that the learning was in place before the painting began. Although the majority of these 2nd graders had difficulty recalling any past experiences in a Sukkah, one eager camper jumped up and announced, “I know! That’s the paper chain holiday!”

So, before moving on, I do want you to know that, even paper chains, can have meaning. Like those little slips of paper, we so earnestly pry from our fortune cookies, the links in a Sukkah chain can include expressions of commitment to tikkun olam in the coming year, affirmations of friendship, pertinent quotes students scribe in Hebrew and English and specific ways we can each be a peacemaker. You needn’t have access to a laminator to weather proof your chains. Simply seal them in clear postal tape before stringing them together. They will endure beyond the season.

I savor the idea of being an individual peacemaker, to feel the communal peace of gathering in the Sukkah, so exposed that we truly are depending on God’s shelter of peace to drape over us. Our students, in every learning stage, can both absorb and radiate that essence of peacemaking in the Sukkah, beginning with the decorations:

Windows of Peace: To create your window, begin with a piece of overhead “film” and frame it with colorful masking tape. Alternatively, you can cut a frame from construction paper, slip it through the laminator and trim the sides. Students can draw a design symbolizing peace to them, on a piece of practice paper. When satisfied with the design, the student slips the practice paper under the window and traces it onto the clear film with a Sharpie marker. Complete the drawing with Sharpie markers in a variety of widths and colors. If desired, you can put an aluminum foil backing on the completed window before hanging it in the Sukkah. You can do this with pre-drawn motifs, but to do so limits the student’s own personal expression of peacemaking.

Enter in Peace: Welcome signs emphasize our openness to guests in the Sukkah, providing the perfect opportunity to process the difference between a casual “welcome,” and a fervent “blessed are you on your coming here.” As your students brainstorm the ways to make a guest feel truly embraced, they can illustrate their thoughts on wood plaques. In Autumn, craft stores sell plaques with hanging wire already attached, generally for less than one dollar each. Students can paint these with acrylic paint, adding tiles with tacky glue as desired. Finish each plaque with a coat of the Mod Podge designed specifically for outdoor use, and frame the entrance to the Sukkah with such blessings.

Consider extending your shelter of peace to those for whom shelter is scarce. Knit hats and gloves, along with a student generated message or picture, and sealed in a zip-loc bag, can hang in the Sukkah before being gifted to a shelter for those without homes. Students who might otherwise string a banana or carrot to hang, could, alternatively, loop a string through the top of a small bag of candy, beginning a sweet year for shelter based children who enjoy few such treats. A baggie of Legos selected from students’ own toy buckets, can hang in the Sukkah, until given to a child for whom they can build promises of a positive future.

While in the Sukkah, sing songs of peace. Experience the beauty of the liturgy. Read poems and stories. Write letters to world leaders and students in other countries. Imbue each child with the sureness that each of us can be a peacemaker to someone, somewhere.

Do you have more ideas for Sukkot projects? Share them with your colleagues. Just hit the reply button at the bottom of this page.