Is that a sukkah? You Bedouin!
Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope, long know for its inventive ways to celebrate the annual harvest festival, has modeled its latest alfresco dining room after a Bedouin tent, and outfitted it with digital slide shows to educate community members on the ongoing refugee crises across the globe.
Park Slopers of any faith are welcome to poke their head into the temporary hut where observant Jews gather during the week-long holiday, but the plight of people on the run will hold a special meaning for God’s Chosen, according to Beth Elohim’s rabbi.
“The Jewish people have a history of being refugees, and it felt very important to me that we as a community go on record saying that we have empathy for people without a home, who are fleeing danger and death,” said Rabbi Rachel Timoner.
Architect Jennifer Hanlin worked pro-bono to evoke Timoner’s vision of a sukkah dedicated to the global refugee crisis, which has seen millions fleeing war and oppression from such countries as Syria, Myanmar, and South Sudan.
To meet the rabbi’s goal, Hanlin installed three digital slide shows in the outdoor shelter, the first of which details the story of Sukkot, as Moses led the ancient Jews on 40 years of wandering following their flight from Egypt.
The remaining two slide shows describe the stories of modern refuges and ways American’s can help, Hanlin said.
The architect’s main contribution, however, was designing the sukkah itself, which she decided to model after a Bedouin tent, a structure known for the sharp contrast between its shady indoors against the glaring desert light, she said.
“I wanted to create a space that would be more like a gallery for the slide shows,” said Hanlin. “I wanted it to feel peaceful and have a sort of darkness to it, and that led to thinking about Bedouin tent structures.”
The architect was forced to think outside the box in designing the one-of-a-kind sukkah and bent a few traditional Sukkot rules, which usually mandate thatch roofs and at least one side of the structure being completely open.
At the end of the day, however, any less-than-traditional twists on the sukkah were for a good cause, according to the architect.
“We really wanted to end up with something that could enhance the slide shows with that contrast of dark and light,” she said. “It wasn’t just to be contrarian.”
The Bedouin-flavored sukkah will form the centerpiece of numerous events being held throughout the eight-days of Sukkot, which ends on Oct. 24, and the sukkah is expected to remain up until the following Wednesday, Oct. 26.
Bedouin tent sukkah at Congregation Beth Elohim [247 Garfield Pl. at Eighth Avenue, (718) 768–3814; congr