Traditionally, Jewish community professionals in Bucharest were responsible for decorating a sukkah for the approximately 3,500 Jews in Romania’s capital city, which is about the size of metropolitan Philadelphia.
Four years ago, that changed, and “a more personal touch” was given to the sukkah at the Bucharest JCC, said Adrian Gueron, one of the community center’s leaders. Each year, following the end of Yom Kippur, members of the community would join together to build a sukkah.
“There is nothing that compares to a sukkah built, and later decorated, on your own,” Gueron explains.
This year, Bucharest’s Jews are taking that interactive and community-minded approach even further, launching the city’s first Sukkot Community Picnic.
“The picnic helps preserve and perpetuate the Jewish holidays and traditions,” Gueron said. “These events act like a team- or community- building exercise. Since they’re also social, they impact and strengthen the connection and bond of the community.”
The Sukkot picnic is expected to attract about 300 participants and will be held in a bucolic location 30 minutes outside of Bucharest.
The event will include: practical lessons on how to build a sukkah; arts and crafts workshops to create sukkah decorations; Sukkot games and contests for children and adults; a performance by Bucharest’s Hazamir (Nightingale) Jewish choir; sports competitions; kosher food; and more.
The picnic is a way to boost engagement for community members, Gueron said.
“With such a large event, there are a lot of volunteers involved—with running the contests and games, leading people, planning, and more,” he said. “These events empower the members of the community to get involved and express their Judaism.”
JDC’s work in Romania is crucial toward ensuring the success of events like the community picnic.
“JDC has supported Jewish life in Romania for 47 years already, being a constant and reliable partner of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Romania (FEDROM),” Gueron said. “JDC provides vital funding for most of the local programs that make Bucharest’s—and the whole of Romania’s—Jewish community one of the most vibrant and alive in the area.”
JDC also bolsters Romania’s Jews indirectly through pan-European programs that encourage the recruitment and development of young Jewish leaders, he added.
Though he’s excited for the Sukkot picnic and proud of the holiday celebration’s growth in recent years, Gueron said there’s still no shortage of goals for Romania’s Jewish community.
“This is the dream: to work toward discovering, developing, and strengthening the Jewish identity of local Jews; to increase their participation and involvement in community life; to ensure that the next generation is educated in the spirit of Judaism; and to build a strong, connected, aware, and responsive community.”
The JCC in Bucharest is generously supported by the Jewish Federation of Tidewater.