Danielle Minson's Blog
How You Help—A Sukkah for All: Design-Contest Winner Brings Jews and Non-Jews Together at University of Cincinnati
The most beautiful building on campus this month is a sukkah, built on October 16 for the recent Jewish holiday of Sukkot by over sixty University of Cincinnati students. The temporary, outdoors-welcoming structure was designed by four graduate students from DAAP, part of UC and known as one of the top 10 design schools in the world. Their contest entry was the winner of the first-ever UC Sukkah Design Competition.
“Watching people sitting in the design, being proud of having a campus sukkah, the sound of nature inside it—it was worth the all-day-and-night efforts!” said Sadaf Khalizare, a member of the winning design team.
Working with Michael Zaretsky, DAAP Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs; Gila Naveh, head of the Judaic Studies Department; and Dr. Bleuzette Marshall, VP for Equity and Inclusion at UC; Cincinnati Hillel initiated the design competition, which was open to all DAAP students. Early in the process, Dr. Craig Perry of the Judaic Studies Department taught the students about the traditions and purpose of a sukkah.
The winners of the DAAP design competition are a perfect fit for a project that Hillel aimed at reaching out to the UC community. The winning team is comprised of four talented international graduate students from Iran and India. Bahareh Rezaee, Gargi Kadoo, Sadaf Arsalani, and Sadaf Khalizare are all working towards a MA in Community Planning, and two also study Sustainable Architecture.
The sukkah has also brought out students and professors from many parts of the university to create the physical structure. “Building this sukkah was definitely a challenge, but seeing different groups of people, Jews and non-Jews, come together to work towards one goal was a very significant experience for me,” said Jake Paul, a Construction Management student.
The winning sukkah was constructed on campus right next to McMicken Commons with the help of the DAAP professors who are advisors to the project, Anton Harfmann and Christoph Klemmt, Hillel staff, and student volunteers.
“I find it wonderful,” said Sharon Stern, Executive Director of Cincinnati Hillel, “that this small, temporary structure whose roof by tradition has to be open to the sky, has opened the way to so much collaboration and sharing at so many levels. This intimate space has become a far-flung success.”
Once built, the sukkah has been and continues to be a collaborative, community space that hosts gatherings, celebrations, discussions, holiday meals, and even university classes. The sukkah brought together people of all backgrounds to explore themes including shelters, homelessness, community, and the traditions of welcoming guests.
“It was amazing to see the amount of support we received,” said Ilana Matheson, DAAP Industrial Design student and Hillel intern. “If even one person walks into the sukkah or reads the signs and learns something, then it is a success.”
The competition judges were Rabbi Elana Perry from Wise Temple, Rabbi Ofer Sabath Beit-Halachmi from Hebrew Union College, architect Michael Maltinsky from Glaserworks, Ari Finklestein from Judaic Studies, and Professor Anton Harfmann from DAAP.
Cincinnati Hillel is one of over fifty programs and agencies funded in part by the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati.
The Jewish Federation of Cincinnati: We look at the whole picture, taking into account the diverse needs of the entire community. Together we can do almost anything.
Thanks to you and the help of our parter agencies, the UC Sukkah Design Competition brought together many parts of the UC campus and enriched discussion of Jewish life on campus.