Takoma Pork Winter 2006 Issue
Habitat for Jewmanity
Winter 2006 Issue
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Needy Jews Find Friend in Habitat for Jewmanity

Winter 2006

HfJ-Sukkah-color-web.jpg
Several corporate sponsors supported the sukkah drive.

SILVER SPRING, MD—For needy Jews, the High Holy Days that come every fall bring mixed feelings.  On one hand, the holiday of atonement, Yom Kippur, is a somber affair.  Yet poor Jews the world over rejoice at their food savings on the day of fasting.  And while the holiday of Sukkot typically brings family and friends together under the vine- and fruit-laden roof of a Sukkah, low-income Jews often celebrate alone under scavenged boxes or the shells of burned-out cars. 

That’s where Habitat for Jewmanity comes in.  Founder and Executive Director Len Ingber explains it this way:  “When I was a child, while my family built a spacious Sukkah and dined under the stars, I’d see my less fortunate neighbors scrimping and saving for the roll of duct tape they needed to hold together an old refrigerator box.  As the fruit on our Sukkah rotted and began to smell, we’d bring it to our neighbors to use on theirs.  But every apple and pear weighed down that soggy cardboard until the doorway drooped to the ground, and I knew that one day I wanted to do even more.”

Ingber’s dream came to fruition in 1996, when he founded Habitat for Jewmanity.  Since then, the organization has built thousands of Sukkot [plural of Sukkah] during the holiday that bears the same name.  In 2005, 10 low-income Jewish families in Takoma Park and Silver Spring found their own dreams coming true, as teams of volunteers erected large, sturdy Sukkot in their back yards.  Some volunteers traveled from as far away as Potomac to take part in Habitat’s Sukkot 2005 projects.  Marty Schechter, a Potomac attorney, brought his 13-year-old son with him.  “Joshua is about to be Bar Mitzvahed,” Schechter said.  “Our synagogue requires a certain amount of community service before the big day.  It’s not enough to just write a check these days.  They want you to get out into the world and see how the other half lives in developing parts of the world.  So here we are!”

Back at Habitat headquarters, Ingber worked the phones, looking for corporate sponsors to fund his ongoing quest for  state-of-the-art Sukkah building methods.    Habitat is pioneering research into the use of matzah as a building material.  Organic, sustainable, and available in convenient 12 by 12 squares, matzah will frame the Sukkah of the future, Ingber predicts.

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