As the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, Laurie Goodwin says it was important to her that her sons, Samuel, 4, and Jacob, 2, celebrate the festival of Sukkot with members of their community.

“It means the world to me to have this sukkah at my house,” said the Ellicott City resident, who is an English teacher at Patuxent Valley Middle School in Jessup. “It’s really important to me that my children see and enter the sukkah on the deck of our house. I’m really excited about that.”

More than 40 adults and young children who live in Howard County came together Oct. 16 for a celebration of Sukkot at the Goodwins’ home and sukkah. The “Sushi & Salads in the Sukkah” gathering was organized by the J-WoHoCo (Jewish Women of Howard County) group and Baltimore’s Etz Chaim Center. (Among those in attendance was Rabbi Yerachmiel Shapiro of the Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Hebrew Congregation in Pikesville.)

Besides Goodwin and members of J-WoHoCo, Etz Chaim Director Rabbi Zev Pomeranz and his wife, Elana, organized and coordinated the event, which featured food and beverages, singing of holiday songs and some Jewish learning.

“I was in the right place at the right time when Elana Pomeranz asked me to host this event,” said Goodwin.

Mrs. Pomeranz, who heads women’s learning and programming at Etz Chaim, said she didn’t know what to expect when asking Goodwin to host the sukkah gathering. “I was just getting to know her, so I wasn’t sure what her response would be,” she said. “It was great. It’s also great that young women like Laurie are joining J-WoHoCo and bringing other young Jewish women with them. We’ve never before had so many young Jewish women involved.”

Said Rabbi Pomeranz: “The main part of the evening is Jews getting together to celebrate the holiday. In addition to lots of food and drink, we all entered the sukkah for singing and stories. These stories are the life wisdom that comes out of the practices of the holiday. …

“Etz Chaim does the heavy lifting for the programs of J-WoHoCo, but all of these events are lay-driven,” he said. “The women tell us what they want to do.”

Goodwin’s husband, Dan, a program manager at the Northrup Grumman Corp in Baltimore, said he thoroughly enjoyed hosting the sukkah soiree.

“I really enjoy the togetherness with the community,” he said. “Sukkot is the first joyous holiday of the year. Everything you do within the sukkah is holy and joyous. I’m new to J-WoHoCo, and I thought it was great that Laurie accepted the invitation for us to host this.”

Sharon Galkin, who lives in Baltimore and is an active volunteer with Etz Chaim through the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project, said she tries to attend all J-WoHoCo events.

“Today’s event makes it possible for more people in Howard County to experience a sukkah,” she said. “It’s exciting to see these Jewish couples enjoying this holiday.”

A founding member of member of J-WoHoCo, Cheryl Kaufman lives in Columbia and has studied Torah for seven years with Galkin.

“This is a joyous occasion, and I’m here to support the program,” she said. “I’m only sorry that Angela Krozy, president of J-WoHoCo, was unable to attend. She would have been excited to be here, too.”

But one person who was in attendance and excited to be there was Pikesville resident Naomi Edelman, who happens to be Laurie Goodwin’s mother.

“The sukkah reminds us of the shelters Jews had for the 40 years they wandered in the desert,” Edelman said. “I am so very happy that my daughter is proud of her Jewish heritage and passing it on to her sons, my grandchildren. We are descendants of Holocaust survivors. I am just so proud that Laurie jumped at the chance to host this joyous occasion.”

Rabbi Pomeranz said he was thrilled with the party’s turnout and deemed the evening a success that went “beyond expectations. We are now involving an age group, young women, that we haven’t reached as well before. These are young families with very young children. There are lots of nice people here, and the hosts are very gracious.”

Near the end of the event, Goodwin said she was also pleased by how everything turned out.

“I’m really proud to have done this for the Jewish community of Howard County,” she said. “I’m especially proud that my boys participated, so they can see how important it is to be with friends and family and to celebrate Jewish holidays. I’m also proud that when people drive by this house, they can see the sukkah on the back deck and know this is a Jewish family.”

Peter Arnold is a Silver Spring-based freelance writer.

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