Representation of the Jewish Holiday Sukkot on Chatham University’s campus

Many students have probably wondered what’s the structure in front of the Jennie King Mellon Library, and why it’s being built. The small structure near Café Rachel is actually called a Sukkah and is linked to the traditional Jewish holiday of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles or Festival of Shelters). This year, it was celebrated from Oct. 13 to 20.

There are daily traditions associated with the holiday and specific services and prayers for the weeklong event. A Sukkah, a hut-like structure, is built to eat, sleep and live in during Sukkot. Members gather in the Sukkah to do things such as study the Torah or have a celebratory meal.

The Sukkot holiday, and the Sukkah, represent the time the Israelites escaped to the wilderness from enslavement in Egypt and built small booths to live in.

The Sukkah on Chatham University’s campus is a project by Chabad House.

A Sukkah hut on the quad. These are used in Jewish traditions during the holiday Sukkot. Photo by Alice Crow.

“The folks from Chabad House that work with our Interfaith Council and who have a large presence on our campus are Sara Weinstein and Rabbi Shmuel Weinstein,” said Amanda Oaks, Executive Assistant to the Vice President of Student Affairs & Dean of Students.

Chabad House on campus provides support and activities for Jewish university students in the Pittsburgh area. It’s associated not only with Chatham, but also with CCAC, Carlow University, the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University and many others. The Chabad House offers free matzah ball soup every Tuesday at noon in Café Rachel.

Every year, Chabad House requests facilities and assistance to build the Sukkah. It’s made out of wooden beams and covered in brown tarps. The wooden branches and leaves that traditionally create the structure’s roof now rest on the ground next to the booth. These plants on top of the huts, s’chach, not only represent the wilderness that the Israelites lived in but also act as a filter to better appreciate God’s light.

Around the world, creative forms of Sukkot are built. There are even contests in certain areas to determine who can build the best Sukkah. Many people find the simplicity of living in the shelters allows them to focus on the important things in life, and the holiday is considered to be one of Judaism’s most joyous.

A few days after the holiday ended, the Sukkah on the quad was still standing. Once it’s removed, we will not see it again until Sukkot comes around next year. If you would like to test your knowledge on Sukkot or learn more about the holiday, take a quiz and do more research at