This past Saturday, October 15th, scores of Washington, DC area young Jewish professionals gathered for the Fourth Annual Sukkah Hop, a mega-event sponsored by the who’s who of local Jewish organizations: Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, Birthright Israel NEXT DC, Young Leadership of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, Washington Hebrew Congregation’s 2239, and the Washington DCJCC’s EntryPointDC. The event consisted of a tour of three of the city’s sukkahs, with food and open bar at each venue. The event price ($35 early bird, $40 otherwise) also included charter bus transportation between each of the three sukkahs, which each had a theme: Etrogs & Eggrolls, Lulavs & Leis, and Starlight & Sweets.
The group met at Sixth & I Synagogue, where the parking lot across the street had been completely taken over, resulting in what felt more like a lawn party than a synagogue event. There was a small sukkah in the parking lot, which had some tables where people could sit, and on the larger parking lot area was a bar with servers pouring wine and beer (and at least at one venue, I noticed they had a specialized cocktail, too). There were tables of hors d’ouvres served as well. After an hour or so of mixing, mingling, eating, and drinking in the crisp fall air, we were loaded onto several buses and traveled to Washington Hebrew Congregation in upper Northwest.
At WHC, there was a bar inside and outside, and some snacks served as well. This venue was less about the sukkah (there was a small, nominal one out back, that no one entered, and I don’t think anyone was meant to enter), rather, everyone pretty much congregated inside one room indoors. The drawback to this, in my view, was that the first venue had all the romance – party in a parking lot, under the stars, enjoying the fall weather, and then suddenly we’re taken to this bright room inside a synagogue, which could not help but feel underwhelming after the first bang-up venue. [Editor’s note: The upside of this venue was that it allowed people to warm up and, in previous years, get a brief respite from any inclement weather. A number of the women at the event this past weekend certainly appreciated that aspect, including yours truly.] Further, the snack selection – tortilla chips and goldfish crackers – while nice, was not necessarily what at least one friend of mine who had skipped dinner was hoping for (nor did she believe she had paid for).
I think everyone was ready – and most people quite tipsy – when it was time to hop back on the buses to the third stop. At the DCJCC, I felt that the event redeemed itself, and the magic of the first stop was recreated. Here again, we were in a parking lot, out back behind the J, with tables of cupcakes and brownies, and yet more wine and beer flowing. Like the first venue, this one was unique in that it felt more like a friend’s backyard house party than an event at the JCC.
I think the overarching idea of this event was fantastic – essentially it was a massive field trip across the city, with lots of Jews. In this way, it stood out from your run-of-the-mill Jewish event in DC – you didn’t just show up at an event, you showed up at three, and it also had the “party bus” feel to it. Personally, I felt like I was back in my high school USY days, except alcohol was involved. Another great thing about the “hopping” aspect was that it fostered meeting new people, because inevitably when you physically move from one location to another, it’s going to mix it up a little bit – so you’re no longer only talking to the friends that you came with, or stuck talking to the “he/she’s nice, but I’m just not into it” nice Jewish boy/girl who had you cornered at the last event.
This event was very hyped up to me prior to attending – “Are you going to the Sukkah Hop?,” “You haven’t been to the Sukkah Hop before? Apparently like hundreds of Jews go…,” “It’s THE event.” In my mind, the event did live up to the hype.
Some props: I appreciated that the havdalah ceremony was held at the first sukkah, but also that not everyone was required to participate and were left to their own devices. Also, throughout the night, the alcohol stream never went dry, which clearly kept the event moving and lively, and kept all guests happy.
A couple gripes: for people like me who had not attended this event before, I think the marketing could have been a little more detailed in terms of what was involved – i.e., market that it’s open bar, explain that there is bus transportation, emphasize whether there will be heavier food or just snacks. The event had an air of “inside knowledge only” required because of the limited explanation, and while mystique and intrigue can allow for an exclusive feel, for someone like me who had never attended this event in previous years, I really wasn’t sure what I was signing up for. If the marketing had provided even a slight additional explanation, maybe yet more District-area Jews would have made an appearance.
All in all, the event provided not only a great, alternative opportunity for young professional Jews who want to mingle, but we were also able to participate in the traditional festival of Sukkot, eating and drinking in not one, but three sukkahs together. While most of the time we were not physically standing or sitting in a sukkah, the event was certainly in the spirit of the holiday – and I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s all about.
Jessica Jacobs is a contributing writer to Gather the Jews.
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