By Rabbi Adam Acobas
Over the summer, during a time when most Rabbis and educators are thinking about Tisha B’av and the upcoming Elul Zman, there was one holiday that I couldn’t release from my thoughts: Succot. This holiday is traditionally associated with hospitality – we literally take our home outdoors and open it to others. Over the past few years, Rabbi Jensen and I kept coming back to an idea that was grand in ambition but one we both wanted to see come to fruition: A Great Neck community Rabbi and Teacher Succah hop for our Middle School students.
Here at North Shore Hebrew Academy we are in a unique position – many of our faculty live within the Great Neck community alongside our students. Likewise, many of our Great Neck community leaders who may not work at NSHA are nonetheless essential members of our school community. The Middle School Great Neck community Succah hop would be the perfect opportunity to take our students out of their usual environment, show them hospitality in our home Succot, introduce them to our families and reinforce that we are not just their Rabbis and teachers, but also their community neighbors.
When we pitched the idea to our faculty and community leaders, we were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm not just from the hosts but also from the teachers who would inevitably be responsible for the large task of making sure our students made their way through Great Neck safely. After several months of planning the logistics of the hosts, routes and schedules, the first day of Chol Hamoed came and it was time for the big hop. As our over 170 Middle School students walked through the streets of Great Neck, they were warmly welcomed by our Rebbeim, Morot and their families including Rabbi Polakoff, Rabbi Lichter, Rabbi Jensen, Morah Lieberman (who hosted in the GNS Succah) Rabbi Basalely, Rabbi Shalom as well as mine.
It was incredible to have our students delivering divrei torah, singing and being mesameach the Chag in our Succot. Our students led us in conversations ranging from the reasoning of sitting in the Succah to the meaning behind the customs of Hoshana Rabah. It truly felt like we had captured the essence of the holiday – having a spiritual and happy experience surrounded by friends and family. At the same time, we demonstrated to our students that our school, and our role as their teachers, is inherently intertwined with our Great Neck community. We hope that the Community Succah hop provided our students with a memorable experience and one that will leave a lasting impression on them for years to come.