JCC Chicago’s Gendler Grapevine Project, Environmental Infused Shabbat and Holiday Programs, centers on environmental-focused community programming for Shabbat and Jewish holidays. They have built upon the momentum of this initiative’s extremely successful first year and in its second year are continuing and expanding the programming with a shared environmental and Jewish lens.
Through this program, they’ve engaged and included community members who were previously unaffiliated with JCC Chicago or other Jewish organizations, and who have been seeking a low-barrier opportunity to connect with other Jewish families in a non-denominational space. Each event has drawn hundreds of participants.
On Sunday, October 8th, JCC Chicago held a community Sukkot program at the Chicago Botanic Gardens (CBG). The program took place outdoors in the CBG’s vegetable garden, where they built a sukkah to remain for the duration of the Sukkot holiday through October 11th. More than 600 guests participated by learning about the holiday of Sukkot, decorating the sukkah, and fulfilling the mitzvah of shaking the lulav and etrog in a sukkah, symbolizing Jewish unity.
In addition to the decorations for the sukkah, children were invited to decorate a small pumpkin-shaped gourd to take home. This year, participants created decorations that could be reused for future holidays, reducing waste and encouraging families to create a lasting legacy for their sukkah and beyond. A special area was created for the youngest participants with Sukkot-themed sensory stimulating activities, designed to provide a hands-on experience to bring the holiday to life.