By Erin Rowley, Daily Collegian
Traditional Jewish music blasted from speakers as about 25 Hasidic Jews danced in the street Thursday night.
The dancers closed off the section of Allen Street between the State College Municipal Building and Barack Obama campaign headquarters to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot, which commemorates the time the Jewish people spent wandering the desert after being exiled from Egypt through celebrations and the building of a hut called a “sukkah.” The holiday started last week and will continue until sundown Monday.
The event was sponsored by the Chabad Jewish Student Center of Penn State. The Center has held other events to celebrate Sukkot, including “pizza in the hut” and “hookah in the hut,” but this was the first year for the outdoor dance party, said Chabad Director Rabbi Nosson Meretsky. He said he hopes to make next year’s event more expansive, with popcorn, cotton candy and more of a carnival atmosphere.
As soon as the live music began, about eight rabbis wearing traditional Hasidic clothes, including long black jackets and black hats, joined hands and danced in circles in the street.
Meretsky said he picked the Allen Street location because he hoped people walking by would join in on the celebration.
He said similar events occur in Israel, but they often include rabbis juggling fire and other exciting attractions.
One attendee, who used to live in Israel, said Chabad did a good job of making her feel at home in State College during the holidays.
Ifat Fitussi, who moved to State College one year ago with her university employed husband, said Chabad’s Sukkot celebration was wonderful.
“Chabad House makes the holiday very awesome. They’re very warm and welcoming,” Fitussishe said.
Fitussi danced in a separate circle of women, and said in hasidic Judaism men and women dance separately.
During the event Meretsky grabbed people by the hand and brought them into the dancing circle, including Jared Jacobs (junior-secondary education).
Jacobs said he enjoyed dancing and celebrating the holiday and thinks it is important for Jewish holidays to have more visibility.
“It builds community,” he said. “It educates the public about Judaism. Not a lot of people understand it.”