SPRINGFIELD, MA – Western Mass is getting ready to Shake it Up during a two-day community wide free Sukkot extravaganza, including music and dance, crafts and activities for all ages. The Western Mass Sukkahfest will take place on Sunday, Oct. 8 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Monday, Oct. 9 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The event will be held in the fields at the Springfield JCC, located at 1160 Dickinson St. in Springfield.
The Western Mass Sukkahfest represents the joint efforts of more than a dozen local Jewish organizations to create a lively, exciting and inspiring community celebration. The Sukkahfest concept comes from the vision and enthusiasm of Michelle Anfang, a psychiatrist from Longmeadow who participated in the Wexner Heritage Program, which is a part of the Wexner Foundation that was founded by Les and Abigail Wexner in 1985.
Seven Western Mass residents participated as Wexner Fellows in the 2014-16 group. They were joined by seven fellows in West Hartford and five fellows in New Haven, to make up the New England cohort. Fellows were involved in a two-year intensive program of Jewish learning and leadership development for volunteer leaders of the Jewish Community in North America.
The goal of the program is to deepen lay leaders’ understanding of Jewish history, values and texts, to enrich their leadership skills, and to develop a network of volunteer leaders. With added knowledge and confidence, the goal is to inspire fellows to exercise transformative leadership in their communities.
Anfang returned as a Wexner Fellow ready for action and in the fall of 2016 began reaching out to local Jewish agencies to secure their support. Under Anfang’s leadership there is much excitement for the project, as volunteers from thirteen area agencies meet regularly to plan and organize the two day Sukkahfest.
“My goal with Sukkahfest is to create an opportunity for the vast number of Jewish organizations to collaborate, celebrate, and realize the tremendous diversity of our community,” Anfang said about her vision for the Sukkahfest. “Each of our cherished organizations works well individually, but let’s see how amazing it can be when we come together! What better way than a harvest-based festival, rooted in Jewish tradition and New England tradition.”
“The Sukkahfest is a great idea and a terrific opportunity for the community to gather, learn and have fun together,” said Bob Marmor, Interim Executive Director Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts. “The Federation is pleased to be the administrative lead in supporting this community-wide celebration.”
The committee is planning two packed days with a variety of activities and entertainment.
There will be sukkot crafts, food activities, puppet shows, yoga and movement activities. A special feature performance by Nefesh Mountain, a Jewish Blue Grass group will be held on Sunday, Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. All activities are free and reservations are not necessary. Kosher gourmet food will be available for purchase throughout the Sukkahfest. The event will be held rain or shine.
The Shake It Up theme of the event comes from one of the commandments of the Jewish holiday, which is to gather together four “species” or plants common in biblical times: etrog (citron fruit), lulav (palm frond), hadas (myrtle leaves), and aravah (willow tree branches). Each day during Sukkot, we shake the lulav and etrog while reciting a special blessing for the holiday.
“Western Mass Sukkahfest is an opportunity to strengthen our ties to each other and to our Springfield community. And to have some fun”, Anfang said. “We are looking forward to Shaking Up Western Mass with you this fall.”
Western Mass Sukkahfest thanks the following sponsoring institutions: Congregation B’nai Torah, Harold Grinspoon Foundation, Hebrew High School of New England, Heritage Academy, JGS Lifecare, Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts, Lubavitcher Yeshiva Academy, PJ Library, Rachel’s Table, Sinai Temple, Springfield Jewish Community Center, Temple Beth El and The Wexner Foundation.
For more information about the SukkahFest, its complete schedule or to get involved, contact Michelle Anfang at 413-567-7840 and log onto www.wmsukkahfest.org to view the ever expanding schedule for the Sukkahfest.