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Connecting with nature during harvest festival, Jewish Student Union opens sukkah at UNF Ogier Gardens

Situated at the northernmost part of campus is the Ogier Gardens. Established in 2012, it has vegetable beds, fruit trees and flowers but there’s a new spot among it all: a sukkah. Through the garden’s open gate and down a worn brick path, the temporary structure sits facing out toward the water.

Using natural materials found in the garden, like bamboo, the sukkah was built by the Jewish Student Union and is open to the public. In the Jewish faith, the sukkah is a place to celebrate Sukkot.

Sukkot is a Jewish harvest festival celebrating the harvest gathering and the transition to autumn, explained Jewish Student Union President Lee Jordan. A sukkah is a temporary foliage-covered booth built for people during the holiday and taken down afterward. 

Built by the Jewish Student Union, the sukkah is open to all and is a place for students to connect with nature. Because its roof is built using branches and other natural materials, people are meant to look up and see the stars at night, Jordan said.

“It really takes us back to nature, to experience and be in the natural world,” he said. “That makes us aware of the beauty of the natural world and of life in general, but also its impermanence.”

The gardens are so “in nature” that it was the perfect place for JSU to build one. Its spot is meant to be a full experience for students to be able to see even just the natural world at the University of North Florida, especially since it’s built on a nature reserve. 

“You can pick some fruit from the tree and then sit in the sukkah and eat it,” Jordan said, gesturing to the Ogier Garden’s tangerine trees. “I think that the message of Sukkot is something that everyone can understand and that everyone can experience.”

Can’t make it out all the way across campus? The Chabad of Southside also created a second sukkah on the grass area of the Student Union. Both will be up until Friday and taken down when Sukkot ends. 

This is the first year that the Jewish Student Union constructed a sukkah on campus, but Jordan hopes it will become a tradition at the university.

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Carter Mudgett, Reporter
Carter Mudgett is a University of North Florida student majoring in multimedia journalism. He was Spinnaker's editor-in-chief from August 2021 to December 2023. Carter led Spinnaker to be awarded a 2023 Online Pacemaker Award, and most recently placed second in the Society of Professional Journalists's Sunshine State Awards for "Best Coverage of LGBT Issues" in the college category. Backed by a passion for creative storytelling and accurate reporting, Carter typically covers education, gender and race issues.

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