Sukkot Stories

The High Holidays are right around the corner and this year, the hope is that it is different than it has been over the past few years.

What is hoped to stay the same are some fun traditions. Three local families look forward to the holiday and share their family traditions new and old.

The Alkobi Family
Saar and Shirley Alkobi moved to Indianapolis from Israel 19 years ago. They have four children – Lynne, 18; Tahlia, 16; Yonatan, 12; and David, 9 - who are all raised as modern Orthodox and either attended or are currently attending Hasten Hebrew Academy of Indianapolis.

Every Sukkot, Saar, with the help of the kids, take 2X4 wood, a hammer, and nails to build an old-fashioned sukkah from the ground up. This method is also how their parents and grandparents built them, the B’nai Torah members said.

Once the structure is built, they decorate the sukkah with items sent from their family still living in Israel. During the holiday, they spend time in the Sukkah to pray, play and have meals together.

This might sound like a common tradition many families follow during Sukkot, but what sets the Alkobi family apart are their yearly traditions they follow for each night during the holiday. On the first night, they invite all of their Indianapolis Israeli friends. On the second night, they invite Jewish Americans, some who have their own Sukkah and some who don’t.

“Ushpizin in Hebrew means guests or visitors and our family mitzvah is to invite people to our sukkah every day,” Shirley said. 

Another tradition during Sukkot? Soup in the sukkah – more specifically orange soup, which includes all of the orange vegetables and coconut milk. 

The Berg Raunick Family
Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation members Mike and Cara Berg Raunick’s family tradition started last year with their first sukkah. They have a daughter named Ruth, age 6. Born out of Covid, during Sukkot, they invited a few families from their neighborhood to eat and spend time together. These families – one Jewish and others not Jewish – formed a pod and did more than just sit in the sukkah; they celebrated birthdays and other holidays as well.

“We missed being in the community and celebrating Jewish holidays in the ways we were used to traditionally before the pandemic,” Cara said. “We miss the opportunity to build our formative Jewish identities and one thing that was Covid safe was to build a sukkah.”

In the the first year, the adult men in the pods went to buy lumber and worked together to set up the sukkah in the yard. The kids decorated it and then signed their names at their heights. They hope to do that every year to watch the kids grow up.

This Sukkot, they will continue to bond as a family of choice by sharing meals and having playdates in the sukkah.
“It was a wonderful project,” Cara said. “The kids feel a lot of pride to share these traditions, and to help educate non-Jewish families in the group. This is community building at its best. I don’t have family in town so it’s all about creating a community and family of choice.”

The Herman Family
Helaine and Avrum (Av) Herman celebrate the holiday of Sukkot by building a sukkah every year. This began when they were married in 1987. The first 12 years at their home on Holliday Lane, their sukkah was built on concrete patio. In 1999, they built and moved into their current Carmel home, and included a pergola on the deck to accommodate the sukkah. 

Each year after Yom Kippur ends, they hang lattice boards for the walls, and Av puts fresh pine branches on the crossbeams. The Herman’s have six children and nine grandchildren, with three children and two grandchildren living in Indianapolis. Their grandkids help decorate the sukkah with fruit, vegetables and candy.

Congregation Beth-El Zedeck and B’nai Torah family always invites their entire family, including extended family, to have dinner in the sukkah on the first eve of the holiday and on Shabbat. During the week, friends join them for snacks, wine, and to shake the etrog and lulav. Every year, the Israeli Investment club schedules a meeting at their house and they start the meeting with wine in the sukkah.

While there are many family traditions surrounding Sukkot, one thing remains constant; it’s a time for family, and to invite others to come together and remember the holiday. Chag Sukkot Sameach!


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