I miss Sukkoth.
Our first house in West Orange NJ was inside of the eruv set up for the Jewish community. There were 3 synagogues in our area plus a mikvah. Even near our next home in Aberdeen there were also 3 synagogues within walking distance. Aberdeen was a newer community and more sprawling than West Orange, so the visible rhythm of Jewish life and holidays was less visible to me. But in both locations, you could always spot the Sukkoth tents set up on patios and decks, peeping up over the fences.
They came in all styles from stylish and elegant simplicity to happy jumbles where family members of all ages participated in the assembly and decorating. Mostly I glimpsed 2 basic types: aluminum frames with canvas walls and bamboo pole roofs, decorated with pretty bundles of palm branches and real citrons or all wood DIY projects made of lattice panels and whatever local branches were around with garlands of plastic lemons from Michael’s plus a few empty Real Lemon dispensers thrown in for good measure.
I miss that here in Florida. I think that the Jews must be way down south because they sure aren’t here in Ferdnandina Beach. Not that I can see anyway. I’m going to make it a point to drive around this year and look for Sukkoth tents. It would be so great if Google maps did their droning during this time of year and we can all see how charming they are from a bird’s eye view.
Anyway the reason I’m thinking about this now is that I’m growing a new lemon tree. It was a Mother’s Day gift from my daughter – a Ponderosa Lemon tree. Apparently its a hybrid of a lemon and a citron and the fruit gets YUGE – they average 2 to 4 pounds each, plus they’re ugly and lumpy and are described as having an “extra tart” taste”. So, triple threat. I got a little scared when I read one nursery plant site that said “Imagine how many pitchers of lemonade you can make from just one of these fruits!” Yes, imagine it.
I took a picture of the biggest fruit this morning – the visual doesn’t really translate here but its the best I could do. Right now, this one is as big as a really big naval orange.
So anyway, citrons. Sukkoth. I kind of miss it.
Disclaimer #1: I’m not Jewish, I’m not related to anyone who is Jewish and whatever I know about being Jewish is stuff I picked up just because I lived in NYC and northern NJ where there are a lot of Jews.
Disclaimer #2: I think I actually might be Jewish but that is unconfirmed, based only on my inner feeling and a smidgen of geopolitical knowledge*. I can’t get anyone I know to engage with me about this so it remains unconfirmed.
*Because my Lithuanian ancestors were from that part of the word that was ping-ponged back and forth between Lithuania, Poland and Russia. Before WWII, the town they came from had one of the largest Jewish populations in Europe. I can see how a dirt poor desperate man with no options and a pack of starving children might convert for a bag of potatoes. Which would be the bigger moral failing – renouncing your faith or allowing your children to starve when you could have taken a path that would feed them? I don’t mean that disrespectfully. I mean that kind of desperation is unknown to me and so I honor either choice. Also, my family name literally translates to Son of Jacob. So you tell me.