Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Spirit of Succoth: Ushpizin and Farming

JDC's Succoth Events

In an attempt to complement, and not compete with or divide the community, we decided to hold two Succoth events as the first two JDC events of this year. These events were designed to bridge gaps and provide opportunities that otherwise would not exist in the Jewish community. This year, Succoth and the Chinese October holiday fell at the same time, giving us the opportunity to do something doubly meaningful. Succoth and the Mid-Autumn Festival have a few things in common, and it allowed us to organize content-filled and meaningful activities.

The first of these events was a Succah-Crawl, following the long and beautiful tradition of ushpizin during Succoth. In what turned out to be a revolutionary, first-ever occasion, I set up an afternoon of visiting five different succot across the city and across the wide spectrum of the community. We were a group of about ten Jews, ranging in age from mid-twenties to mid-fifties (though a few young children joined for parts of the event). The first two of these were private succot, in the homes of liberal, mixed-marriage families in the French Concession. We spent about 45 minutes in each one, eating snacks (including halva cookies I made for the event) and chatting. We walked from one to the other, which gave a neighborhood feeling to the occasion, a rare experience in huge, bustling Shanghai. We had to cancel the Downtown Chabad center, as they just had a baby.

We then took taxis to the Hogqiao area, where we visited the Sepharadic Center and then went to their succah. Many members of the group had never been in to this center, and it was a pleasant experience. We sat with the rabbi and his wife and daughter, had home-made pastries and learned about the four species and the meaning of Succoth. We then walked to the Shanghai Jewish Center (Chabad) for the big finale: a sushi dinner. The rabbi and I had coordinated the event so that it would coincide with his sushi night. It was a nice ending, having sushi dinner all together in the big community succah.
The trip to the Farm is something that came together thanks to Rebecca Kanthor. In the days leading up to it, it became extremely popular among families, and in the end we had 45 people, including 18 children (15 of whom were under the age of 6), and about 7 single young professionals. This organic farm was on Chongming Island, about an hour and a half from Shanghai, though with the holiday traffic that time was doubled. Their primary products are wheat and bean, and so they sell all kinds of flour, soy sauce, bean paste and black sesame, among other things.
Upon arrival, we made vegetarian dumplings and pita, and had a delicious organic and local vegetarian lunch, complemented by hummus and pesto. Then we took a walk of the farm and around the village, and picked some beans. The kids got to run around in nature and chalk the sidewalk with fat neon-colored chalk I had brought along. The adults got to chat and eat some healthy, delicious food. Then we walked around country roads rimmed with wild cotton plants, wearing big straw hats.

But these truly are stories best told in pictures.

Succah-Crawl in Shanghai
Our First Stop: Ben and RC's Succah


Our Second Stop: Rebecca Kanthor and Liu Jian's succah
Our group in Rebecca's succah
The Trip to the Farm
Making Dumplings
The Final Product
Having Lunch
A Walk around the Farm
In the Forest
Picking Beans

1 comment:

  1. It's great to see that the spirit of the Sukkot is kept alive even overseas. Speaking of spirits, you might like this infographic about the Ushpizin