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Congregation Beth Elohim shows off its super sukkah

Slope synagogue has super sukkah!

Sukkah punch: Chuck Dorr, left, and Ryan Downes of Dig garden shop add vegetation — both living and otherwise — to the sukkah.
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It’s alive!

Park Slope synagogue Congregation Beth Elohim is going green for Sukkot, celebrating the Jewish harvest festival by raising an architect-designed sukkah — a temporary hut where observers dine during the week-long holiday — filled with living plants. The shelter is likely the only such structure in the city that requires a gardener, said one of the designers.

“If we don’t have rain, the sukkah will have to be watered,” said Susane Doban, a Beth Elohim congregant and owner of Grenpoint’s Doban Architecture, which designed and built the structure with Boerum Hill garden store Dig.

People typically top their sukkahs — which symbolize the shelters the Israelites lived in while wandering the desert — with branches and palm fronds, but the Garfield Place house of worship has filled its holiday hut with moss and ferns that are growing right out of dirt-filled nooks and crannies in the walls.

It may not be traditional, but Doban says the sentient sukkah embodies the true spirit of the holiday.

“The holiday is about the fall and the harvest season, and we thought it was only natural to include green materials to celebrate our appreciation of the Earth’s bounty,” she said.

Congregation Beth Elohim boasts a proud tradition of unconventional, eye-catching sukkahs — previous incarnations include an artsy slatted-wood number covered in Spanish moss, and one resembling an Ikea shelving unit filled with bundles of firewood.

The synagogue’s rabbi hopes this year’s effort, located on the corner on Garfield Place near Eighth Avenue, will get more locals interested in the Jewish holiday.

“What’s exciting about this is we’re taking something old and we’re making it fresh and alive,” said Rabbi Rachel Timoner. “I’m so excited to see the community’s reaction once the sukkah is built and see people walk by, notice it, and ask, ‘What is this holiday?’ ”

The congregation will host potluck dinners for members inside the new sukkah each night from Sept. 27 through Oct. 1, and is also hosting a Sukkot block party on Oct. 4, where neighbors can check out the shrubbery-filled shack while enjoying live music and games for kids. And bringing people — and plants — together is what a good sukkah is all about, said Timoner.

“The main thing is to connect with each other, with the natural world, and with God,” she said. “It’s really just a gathering place for the community.”

Sukkot Block Party at Congregation Beth Elohim [274 Garfield Pl. between Eighth Avenue and Prospect Park West in Park Slope, (718) 768–3814, www.congregationbethelohim.org]. Oct. 4 at 11 am–2 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Posted 12:00 am, September 28, 2015
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