Children at the Chabad Preschool of the Arts in Naples, Fla., helped build and decorate the sukkah on their first day back to school post-hurricane. Many of the children in the preschool have been displaced or lost their homes completely.

Sukkahs and Spirits Go Up in Hurricane-Ravaged Florida

by Bruria Efune – chabad.org

Chabad-Lubavitch centers in cities and towns on the Gulf Coast hardest hit by Hurricane Ian are constructing large communal sukkahs where more than a thousand guests are expected to gather during the seven-day holiday.

At Chabad of Naples, the preschool of the arts returned to school just in time to build and decorate their community sukkah. Many of the children in the preschool have been displaced or lost their homes completely.

“We are so blessed to be able to be there for our families who know their child will be taken care of in a loving, safe and familiar environment while they figure out the next steps for their families,” said Etti Zaklos, director of Chabad Preschool of the Arts in Naples, Fla. “We are committed to supporting our POTA community however we can, with warm hugs and warm meals that we are sending home to families who have been displaced due to the devastation.”

At Chabad of Southwest Florida in Fort Myers, the sukkah was set up right in view of a satellite dish that was parked in front of the center to assist with ongoing rescue operations. Just days earlier, Florida’s first lady Casey DeSantis came to visit the Chabad center and said she was very moved by the relief being provided by Chabad to the community.

“It was inspiring to see the strength and generosity of Southwest Florida’s Jewish community today at Chabad in Fort Myers, where hurricane relief and preparations for Yom Kippur were both underway,” DeSantis wrote.

At Chabad of Venice, Pinchas Shmonim, a recent refugee from Ukraine, could be found building the community sukkah. “He fled one emergency only to be found in another,” Rabbi Sholom Ber Schmerling told Chabad.org.

At Chabad of Venice, Pinchas Shmonim, right, a recent refugee from Ukraine, could be found building the community sukkah with resident Alex Azizov.
At Chabad of Venice, Pinchas Shmonim, right, a recent refugee from Ukraine, could be found building the community sukkah with resident Alex Azizov.

The seven-day holiday—observed in 2022 from before sundown on Sunday, Oct. 9, and ending after nightfall on Sunday, Oct. 16—commemorates the wandering of the Jews in the desert on their way to the Promised Land and the miraculous clouds that surrounded them. It is immediately followed by the especially joyous two-day holiday of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.

Sukkot, also known as “The season of our rejoicing,”—as well as this year’s special Hakhel year gatherings—are particularly important in communities with a newfound reliance on unity, mutual assistance, and trust in G‑d, say local rabbis.

“When we step into the sukkah, we’re getting something we all could really use right now,” said Rabbi Fishel Zaklos of Chabad of Naples. “An embrace from G‑d, from head to toe. Just a real good hug.”

After a harrowing week during and after Hurricane Ian, children and adults in Naples are looking forward to rejoicing during the holiday.
After a harrowing week during and after Hurricane Ian, children and adults in Naples are looking forward to rejoicing during the holiday.
The sukkah outside Chabad of Southwest Florida in Fort Myers, one of the hardest-hit communities.
The sukkah outside Chabad of Southwest Florida in Fort Myers, one of the hardest-hit communities.
The new Chabad Center in Fort Myers opened right before Rosh Hashanah and Hurricane Ian. This will be the community’s first chance to celebrate Sukkot at the new location.
The new Chabad Center in Fort Myers opened right before Rosh Hashanah and Hurricane Ian. This will be the community’s first chance to celebrate Sukkot at the new location.
Building the sukkah at Chabad of Venice, Fla.
Building the sukkah at Chabad of Venice, Fla.
The Chabad of Venice sukkah stands between the Chabad center and the tent where the community gathered for the post-Yom Kippur meal a few days earlier.
The Chabad of Venice sukkah stands between the Chabad center and the tent where the community gathered for the post-Yom Kippur meal a few days earlier.

Donations to Chabad of Southwest Florida relief efforts can be made here.

Donations to Chabad of Naples relief efforts can be made here.

Donations to Chabad of Venice relief efforts can be made here.

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