Etz Chaim Unveils Redesigned Sukkah & Pavilion

Etz Chaim Unveils Redesigned Sukkah & Pavilion

Many generous forces came together to dedicate the new Hammer Pavilion for East Cobb’s Congregation Etz Chaim.

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Congregation Etz Chaim dedicated its new Hammer Pavilion which will serve as a sukkah and gathering space for other outdoor events.
Congregation Etz Chaim dedicated its new Hammer Pavilion which will serve as a sukkah and gathering space for other outdoor events.

The Festival of Sukkot is a time of celebration. As such, Rabbi Daniel Dorsch and Congregation Etz Chaim picked this autumnal time to refresh, replant and replace the Conservative synagogue’s sukkah with the motivation that it will also serve as a much-needed pavilion for other occasions.

During the pandemic, synagogues rediscovered the outdoors, and the trend has not dissipated. When Etz Chaim hosted large crowds for Tot Shabbat in the parking lot during the pandemic, Rabbi Dorsch recognized that — aside from its terraced outdoor sanctuary — the synagogue lacked a purposeful outdoor gathering space; and he also recognized how congregation members traditionally revel in the multi-generational aspect of building community.

This past second day of Sukkot, on Sunday, Oct. 1, more than 200 people gathered to dedicate the new Hammer Pavilion. Following holiday services, people of all ages joined for a cookout celebration alongside the Hammer family as they dedicated the new pavilion together.

Past president Allison Saffran said, “I’m so appreciative that Jack and Shirley Hammer sponsored this pavilion. It’s wonderful that they have donated this beautiful outdoor space where we can come together for a committee meeting or outdoor class. The space is very versatile; and I suspect it will get a lot of use moving into fall weather.”

The Hammer Pavilion replaces the previous sukkah that was built by Aaron Feldser, son of Etz Chaim’s retired bookkeeper, Ellen Feldser, as an Eagle Scout project more than two decades ago.

On Oct. 1, Congregation Etz Chaim celebrated old and new generations in its new outdoor gathering space.

Rabbi Dorsch stated, “Alongside the growth of the congregation, many Sukkot events like Ribeyes with the Rabbis and Sukkot Wine Tasting were selling out due to the previous sukkah’s limited seating capacity.”

In the past, to try to increase capacity, Etz Chaim took its drive-through sukkah (a favorite in the early days of the pandemic) and moved it to the end of the previous sukkah to create more space. Rabbi Dorsch continued, “But it was clear this was only going to be a temporary fix. It was therefore time for Etz Chaim’s previous sukkah, one that was made from wood boards and showing signs of wear and tear, to go into retirement. The need for this pavilion, which is a patio and pergola that can be converted into a sukkah, was apparent.”

Sisterhood co-president Neda Gayle added, “What I liked most about the new pavilion and its dedication was bringing the expansion full circle with generations — children, young families, all mixed with the senior crowd on such a beautiful Sunday.”

Additionally, Etz Chaim’s Sisterhood and Men’s Club contributed toward the purchase of indoor furniture for the new pavilion. And in addition to the Hammer family’s generosity, Etz Chaim’s retired executive director, Bob Bachrach, and its current facilities director, Aram Blankenship, played instrumental roles in seeing the project through.

Since its completion several months ago, the Hammer Pavilion space has already played host to preschool lunches, a USY end of year banquet, kiddush lunches on Shabbat, and b’nai mitzvah Shabbat dinners.

Board member Alex Peskin stated, “The new sukkah feels so welcoming. Our family loved spending time with other families, celebrating the holiday together and enjoying lunch and fun with the community last Sunday.”

Educator and longtime member Linda Weinroth agreed, “It was wonderful to be a part of this event celebrating Sukkot and community and watching the multi generations together in this newly dedicated space. It was a perfect day in every way.”

Rabbi Dorsch concluded, “As we complete a year of Hakhel that began last Sukkot, a year where we celebrated togetherness in the Jewish community, it is a blessing that we were able to bring the East Cobb Jewish community together to celebrate our renewal in our new Sukkah.”

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