East End succah goes green

By Jessica Elgot, September 28, 2010
Crate expectations: volunteers assemble the succah

Crate expectations: volunteers assemble the succah

Behind the high rises of Tower Hamlets, past the bright lights of Brick Lane, a community of radical Jewish activists, partnered by artists, gardeners, architects and a London mosque, have built a unique succah.

The East London succah - built in the most historically Jewish area of London - is the brainchild of Jewish activism group Jewdas and Heather Ring, a landscape architect who specialises in pop-up shops and temporary structures.

Built entirely by volunteers, the succah is made from painted pallets and crates donated by Hackney Council. Above it is a green and white tarpaulin, and prints from artists line the walls.

Activities in the succah - located at Spitalfields City Farm - have included vegan meals, workshops on ecological activism by Jewish environmental group Plane Stupid, documentary screenings and a post-Shabbat service.

"It is a critique of a modern succah, which is very exclusive and private. We want to create something totally opposed to the luxury succahs you can buy," said Jewdas's Joseph Finlay. "A succah is normally a place for Jews only. This is open for everyone - we don't believe there has ever been anything like this."

Volunteers have included members of the East London Mosque and more than 150 schoolchildren from the surrounding borough, including the mosque's own school. The succah has also hosted a performance by female Muslim rappers "Poetic Pilgrimage".

Jewdas's Daniel Neumann said: "We feel there's a lot of racism in the Jewish community towards Muslims, and we really wanted to do a joint project with them. The idea for the succah only really came about a few weeks before we did it."

One of the succah's creative partners is Abbas Nokhasteh from cultural organisation Openvizor.

He said: "The succah is made from recycled materials but it also reminds us about how our food now comes in crates, not from the ground.

"Our ethic has always been to work on a small scale, where you don't need to depend on others for funding, but to create something that makes a difference that you can run yourself - just like this succah."

Last updated: 1:08pm, September 28 2010