Sukkah Project transforms tradition into art

Photo: Toronto Sukkah Project
An overhead view of Toronto’s Sukkah Project

Sukkot 2018 begins at sunset Sunday, Sept. 23 and ends at nightfall Sunday, Sept. 30. Dallas’ Jewish community will have an opportunity to celebrate this year with an innovative spin on the holiday. The Sukkah Project’s (SP) premiere is an opportunity for Jewish families to enjoy a new take on Sukkot, with attention drawn to the heart of the holiday, the sukkah itself.
The Sukkah Project: Dwell in Design, is presented by the Texas Jewish Arts Association (TJAA). If selected, entrants will design and construct a unique, nontraditional sukkah for a juried panel. A call for entries to the project went out in May to architects, builders and artisans.
“We have received 12 entries to date and expect more,” said Melinda Kollinger, project manager. “Half of those entries have been from out-of-state and one is from Mexico. Each entry includes the registrant’s intent to submit a proposal. They will have until July 13 to submit their design.”
Finalists will be announced in late August before off-site construction begins. Sept. 20 is the build date, and the featured event is Sept. 23. The sukkahs will be on public display at the Museum of Biblical Art (MBA) Sept. 21 through Sept. 27.
Veronique Jonas is immediate past president of TJAA and is chair of Dallas’ SP. She said, “TJAA was created in 2013 with the primary goal of promoting and enhancing the Jewish arts in Texas. Our hope is to expand the organization from visual arts to include various other art forms such as performing arts, literature and architecture.”
“When we were first introduced to Sukkah City in New York,” Jonas continued, “we knew that this was something we wanted to bring to Dallas. I believe that this is something that a large city like Dallas deserves.
“So, aside from being a natural extension of the arts, we see this as an outreach opportunity for the Jewish community to connect with the greater Dallas/Fort Worth population. The goal is the promotion of tolerance and understanding by educating and sharing the beauty of this most ancient Jewish tradition,” Jonas added.
The project chair expressed the meaning of Sukkot like this: “Sukkot highlights the importance of a safe refuge against the elements, and therefore reminds us of those in our cities who are homeless or under-housed, dislocated and estranged and their need to establish homes of their own.”
Jonas recognized the project’s beneficiaries: “This is our mitzvah opportunity to support National Center for Jewish Art; Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity; and Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas.”
The jury panel will include Enrique Norten, Hon. FAIA; Gregory S. Ibañez, FAIA, Principal, Ibañez Shaw Architecture; Max Levy, FAIA; Mark Lamster, Professor, Architecture School, UTA; Gary Cunningham, FAIA.
The 10 to 12 winning, full-size sukkahs will be constructed on the lawn of the Museum of Biblical Arts the week of Sept. 21 through Sept. 27. The museum is on the corner of Boedeker and Park Lane near NorthPark Center in Dallas.
A sukkah festival and awards ceremony will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23, at the MBA. At this time, the planned program will include tours of the sukkahs, an Artists’ Village, daylong live music and entertainment, and children’s activities. Sukkahs will be open to the public throughout the week with a variety of programs being planned. There will also be activities for small children like puppet shows, face painting, the PJ Library, beading and others. The Dallas Street Choir will perform, along with Levine Academy’s choir. Rabbi Shira Wallach of Congregation Shearith Israel, who brought the SP idea to the TJAA, will speak.
As Sukkot falls right after the High Holy Days and the personal introspection that arises, thoughts of the state of the world, homelessness, hunger, and societal harms become more relevant. The coming together of the Jewish community, the arts of architecture, performance and visual on one day makes the festival-like occasion in September sound like a blessing.
“I’ve always loved Sukkot, as we celebrated and built a sukkah every year when I was growing up. The significance of Sukkot, with the holiday’s message of safe refuge and inclusion, is especially meaningful right now. The project is a compelling opportunity to both educate and unite our community,” said Anne Brownlee, who is leading marketing and communications efforts for the project.
The Sukkah Project is made possible in part from an Outreach and Engagement Grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas as well as private donors.
In addition to the Federation community partners at presstime include: Aaron Family JCC; Akiba Academy; Ann and Nate Levine Academy; Center for Jewish Education; Congregation Anshai Torah; Congregation Shearith Israel; Dallas Rabbinical Association; Hebrew Order of David, Shimon Perez Lodge; Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas; Jewish Family Services; Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas; PJ Library; Temple Emanu-El; Texas Jewish Post; and Yavneh Academy.
For additional information on the Sukkah Project, visit

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