Jewish Student Association to host dialogue, Sukkot ritual

Damon Stone, News reporter

The Jewish Student Association, building itself back after inactivity, is holding dialogue in the Eva and Jim Martens Alumni Center on Tuesday, Oct. 11 at 5:30 p.m., followed by a traditional Jewish ritual as part of the holiday of Sukkot outside of Henry Hardin Cherry Hall at 6 p.m.

The ritual will consist of building a sukkah, a temporary hut or tent-like structure. Alexander Marcus, the visiting assistant professor of Jewish studies who holds an advisory role in the association, said the significance of the sukkah ties back to the Exodus, when Israelites fled from Egypt through the desert and resided in temporary huts along their journey.

“What it does for Jews is that it puts us in the position of [experiencing] what it would have been like to be wandering through the desert,” Marcus said. “[…] It can be a holiday that is very fun for kids, because it’s [similar to] camping, and people are encouraged to bring their sleeping bag. It represents a little bit of the precariousness of not having your own place, and relying on God in that way; it allows Jews to put themselves in the shoes of their ancestors in the desert.”

Marcus said in order for the structure to be an “official sukkah,” the light let in by the roof, normally constructed out of branches and leaves, has to be no larger than a coin.

Marcus has spearheaded the revival of the organization and hopes that the Jewish Student Association will remain active in the long-term future. The organization previously had existed on campus, but due to a lack of activity and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it became inactive.

“My goal since I’ve been here is to learn a little bit of that background [of the previous association], and figure out how do we start reviving the organization, and start having more Jewish events, activities, opportunities for Jewish students and anyone else who wants to participate,” Marcus said. 

Marcus said the goal of the organization is to attract Jewish students on campus and celebrate Jewish holidays and customs, including Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah and Passover. 

The goal of the dialogue is to attract Jewish students on campus to the organization and connect with each other. 

“My role is to help the students put together the types of events that they’d like to see,” Marcus said. “My hope is that on Tuesday, when we get people together, I can have the opportunity for people to first of all talk a bit about what it’s like for them as a Jewish minority on campus, but then really get going into what we can do.” 

News reporter Damon Stone can be reached at [email protected].