“Sushi in the Sukkah” Celebrated at Iona University

By Stephen E. Lipken

“Sushi in the Sukkah” was celebrated on the Iona University Montgomery House Lawn on October 3rd, with generous varieties of Sushi served and instruction by Second Year Hebrew Union College Rabbinical Student Spencer Szwalbenest. 

The event was hosted by Iona University’s Driscoll Professorship in Jewish-Catholic Studiesand Core Curriculum Director, Elena G. Procario-Foley, Ph.D., and Hillels of Westchester, represented by its Executive Director, Rachel Klein, MSW. It was co-sponsored by Iona’s Office of Mission and Ministry and its Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging. “We want to make our campus as welcoming as possible for people of all faiths,” Professor Procario-Foley stressed. 

“Today I learned for the first time that during Chol HaMoed, the middle phase of Sukkot, we use a different greeting, ‘Moed Tov,’” Klein observed. 

According to Rabbinical Student Spencer Szwalbenest, “Lulav (palm fronds) and Etrog (resembling a lemon) symbolize the joy of the holiday and presence of G_d everywhere. The Lulav is a collection of four species, representing human body parts, Lulav, spine; willow, lips; hadass, myrtle, eyes, and Etrog, heart. With the Lulav in the right hand, you say the blessing ‘al ni-telas Lulav.’ Turn Etrog with the tip facing up and shake Lulav three times forward, three times to the right, three times behind you, three times to the left, three times up, and three times down.” 

The Hebrew word “Sukkah” means “booth” or “hut.” During the week-long harvest holiday of Sukkot, many Jews construct a temporary structure in which they eat their meals, entertain guests, relax, and even sleep.

A Sukkah is reminiscent of huts in which ancient Israelites lived during their 40 years of wandering in the desert after their Exodus from Egypt, symbolizing G_d’s benevolence in providing for all the Jews’ needs in the desert. Iona’s Sukkah was made possible by the  generosity of Temple Israel of New Rochelle, Rabbi Jesse Gallop.