Jordan Herman wanted to marry his two passions: engineering and BBYO, and he found a way to do so by building a sukkah and holding an intergenerational celebration with students and Holocaust survivors.
Herman built a sukkah outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Columbus with help from many people and organizations to create a full communal program, said Adam Polacek, associate regional director for the Kentucky Indiana Ohio region of BBYO.
“I had a dream, that I wanted to bring new light to my chapter, give us something new, that in 60 years of my chapter’s existence, has never been done,” Herman said, according to a news release. “I looked at the core values of BBYO and realized that I wanted to make something that included volunteerism, Judaism, and (was) socially inviting.
“I essentially made a checklist in my head as I worked to figure out what I wanted to create and found the holiday of Sukkot. I looked into Sukkot because I myself was not as educated as I once had been when I concluded my time at Columbus Jewish Day School. As I began to research Sukkot, I learned about sukkahs and how they are made, the traditions of the building and celebrations inside, and looked into types of sukkahs,” he said. “I found that I wanted to make the sukkah as big as I could because the bigger the sukkah, the more people that could join us for a meal.”
“I decided to take a pause from my research to talk with my city director, Adam Polacek, to discuss the plausibility of the sukkah,” he said. ”Then, I began to search for a sukkah that would be big, and I soon realized that sukkahs are not cheap, and that it was going to be very expensive.”
Herman, a senior at Bexley High School, is captain of the robotics team, and planning to go into an engineering. He used a computer-aided program to design the sukkah. He applied for and received a grant to pay for the materials.
“I initially talked with my engineering teacher, Patrick Cummins, and he said as a former carpenter he would love to help lead the building of the sukkah to ensure that it was done safely, controlled and correct,” Herman stated. “Patrick gave us the most structurally sound design that he could make and so we purchased the necessary supplies and began to build. About 10 hours and four trips to Lowe’s and Home Depot and we had a sukkah. Through my work at Jclub, an after school program led by Kaley Rosenthal at the JCC, the kids helped me decorate the sukkah by making chains that could hang from all of the sides and bring color into a brown sukkah.”
Rain prevented the intergenerational Sukkot program from taking place within the sukkah. However, Holocaust survivors and students gathered at the JCC.
“My overarching goal of this program was to give those who do not typically celebrate the holiday or have a traditional meal in a sukkah, enjoy the traditions for possibly their first time,” Herman stated. “I also wanted to educate those in attendance in the beauty in the holiday and have the community join us in the celebration.”