While Jews around the world are currently sitting in similar-styled tabernacles, reciting the same prayers and shaking the lulav (palm branch), the meals on their succa tables distinguish one country to the next.
Before the Holocaust, Jews living in Warsaw and Budapest would build their succot in the streets, which were themselves transformed into spectacular Jewish fairs. Nowadays, the relatives of the survivors celebrate in their balconies, in their gardens, or in their synagogues. Lili from Budapest, tells The Jerusalem Post that everyday during the Jewish holiday, she eats her meals inside the succa, eating something different each time and inviting relatives and other guests to join. This year, her family's menu includes Hungarian peasant specialties such as paprikás krumpli (paprika-based potato stew), goulash soup and lecsó (the hungarian version of ratatouille based on green pepper and tomato). Most Hungarians do not have their own succot at home, but many of them go to the synagogue with their families and observe the holiday with the rest of their community.
Lili shares a story about her friend who built a succa on the roof top balcony of his apartment; when the neighbors spotted it, they called the police, reporting that a resident was undertaking illegal construction. As a result, the police and the local council sent out a notification that he must remove it within the next eight days - coincidentally allowing him to leave the tabernacle standing until the end of the Jewish holiday. Around the community, this became known as the story of a true “Succot miracle.”
Nestor from Argentina tells the Post that his need to celebrate the holiday “adequately” was what drew him to Israel: “It’s the time of spring showers in Argentina. We not only celebrate the harvest of the fruits of late summer but the late winter. We always found ourselves in a contradiction between the rituals.” The meals in his succa include potato Knish and sweet pletzalej, which are the typical dishes of the Shtetls in Tzarist Russia, where the majority of Argentinian Jews come from.
The Sephardic Jews in Spain like to sweeten their succot by hanging fruits and kahk (sesame seed coated cookie rings.) Nearby, members of Venice’s Jewish community continue to cover their tables with pomegranates, corn and other symbols of abundance and hope. A typical Italian dessert for Succot is bollos - fluffy, round sweet bread, spiced with anise - basically an Italian doughnut. The name of the bollo comes from the Spanish word bola (ball) and attests to the heavy Sephardic influence found throughout Italian cooking.
On the other end of the world, Elisha battles against the Canadian cold to build his succa: “Toronto can be a little bit crazy around Sukkot time. There are years when we have had a white Sukkot, when snow makes it’s way through the sechach (succa covering) into our soup." Nevertheless, Elisha holds an optimistic outlook on the matter: “Although I have never been out of Toronto for Succot, I believe that the essence of Succot is the same here as everywhere else in the world, we still eat in the succa (weather permitting), we still shake the four spices, and we still look ridiculous doing it.”
No matter where you are in the world, all roads lead to Succot, and it’s all matter of food.
Gisela Dés is a Spanish intern at The Jerusalem Post