Untraditional building materials bring new twist to sukkah

Hadassah-Brandeis Institute celebrates sukkot with floating installation

Artist Rosalie Shane assembles her sukkah

Ribbon and tulle replace traditional rope and twine in a unique three-dimensional sukkah building by painter and Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center (WSRC) co-chair Rosalie Shane. The Hadassah-Brandeis Institute (HBI) is honoring the tradition of sukkot by expanding the ancient outdoor tradition into the indoor space.

Although Shane’s interpretation teeters on tradition by being constructed indoors, the gauzy roof of her sukkah is open to the stars through the clerestory windows of the WSRC on South Street.

Spanning an area 10 by 18 feet and towering over eight feet tall, Shane’s interpretation departs from convention once again in that the structure does not rest on the ground as would a traditional sukkah. Instead, her creation floats, attached to the specially constructed suspension wires. The artist’s use of both bright and deep color throughout the installation evokes the rustic feeling of the harvest.

“I want it to be both beautiful and a place of nurturance and growth for all those who enter it,” says Shane.

Cynthia Berenson, WSRC co-chair, is assisting in the assembly of Shane’s sukkah by helping her precisely construct its wall of ribbons.

“I’ve seen Rosalie’s installations done here over the years and I wanted to be a part of this one," says Berenson. "This is my first time as her assistant, but it won’t be my last.”

Shulamit Reinharz, founder and director of the HBI and the WSRC, sees the installation as a sukkot-shalom, a symbolic canopy of peace, which envelops those who visit the HBI and the WSRC to study, read or relax. In fact, Reinharz says that the installation is similar to the symbolism of the chuppah in Jewish wedding ceremonies, a visual prayer to enfold those in it in a shelter of peace.

Although a sukkah is traditionally dismantled after eight days, previous sukkah installations at the WSRC by Shane have remained on display for months by popular demand, providing those who sit within its ribbon walls an opportunity for reflection, inspiration and scholarly pursuit.


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