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Clintonville Jewish community selects new name to reflect its mission

Sukkat Shalom hosts outdoor services at local farms and parks. | Credit: Sukkat Shalom

The Little Minyan Kehilah, a Clintonville Jewish community that Ohio State students and faculty call home, has rebranded itself as Sukkat Shalom.

According to a press release from the community, Sukkat Shalom,“shelter of peace” in Hebrew, primarily meets at First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus. The congregation – known as a kehilah in Hebrew – selected this new name after a community-wide discussion as part of a strategic planning process partially funded by a grant from Jewish Columbus.

“We imagine this name invoking the peace and protection we draw from our community as well as the sense of wholeness and inner peace we seek within ourselves,” Rabbi Shimberg said in the press release.

The name has a deep meaning in Jewish tradition. A sukkah, the namesake of Sukkat Shalom, is a temporary structure built for Sukkot, the Jewish fall harvest festival. Tova Seltzer, the kehilah’s first Bat Mitzvah, said this reference is meant to reflect the inclusive nature of the community.

“A Sukkah represents the spirit of our kehilah,” Seltzer said in the press release. “It is a structure that starts out a little makeshift, built in a backyard by a family or community, not by a fleet of heavy machinery.”

The renaming also represents growth to Jake Boswell, an assistant professor of landscape architecture at Ohio State and regular attendee of Sukkat Shalom. Boswell said he finds the name to be a nice fit for how the community views itself.

Sukkat Shalom proudly identifies as Central Ohio’s only kehilah affiliated with the Jewish Renewal and Reconstructionist movements.

According to the Sukkat Shalom website, “[Jewish Renewal] is the ongoing creative project of Jews who are seeking to renew Judaism and bring its spiritual and ethical vitality into our lives and communities.”

Reconstructionist Judaism is a movement characterized by a naturalist approach to faith. According to the official Platform on Reconstruction, “the classical view of God is rejected. God is redefined as the sum of natural powers or processes that allows mankind to gain self-fulfillment and moral improvement.”

These views closely align with the open, contemporary and social justice-oriented nature of Sukkat Shalom, Boswell said. It is a structure that fits well into the schedules and ideologies of college students and faculty.

“For me, it’s a place of interesting conversation around traditions that I grew up with but maybe started to question as an adult and perhaps wanted to pursue in less ideological ways,” Boswell said.

Boswell said all students are welcome to visit the kehilah at any time of the year.

“As a college student, it was hard for me to find a Jewish community that was open, and I felt like I could just go and celebrate the holidays,” he said. “There’s no obligation; anyone can come.”

More information on Sukkat Shalom, their community and beliefs can be found at their website: https://sukkatshalomscolumbus.org/.

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