If you read my previous post called “What’s in the Water?” then you know that this week is Sukkot, a time of joyous celebration, singing, and lots of dancing… If you want to participate in the fun, Jerusalem is the place to be! All this week they are having Simchat Beit Hashoeva celebrations in every neighborhood in the city. Each major Jewish sect has a sort of “headquarters” here, and the parties can be intense and last long into the night. The thing is that unless you are from one of those groups, it’s hard to figure out what, where, and when everything is happening this week.
Lucky for us Mayanot girls, our Rebbetzin Chaya Levinger has the inside scoop 😉 She grew up in the Meah She’arim neighborhood in Jerusalem, the main ultra-orthodox Haredi area in this part of town. In Meah She’arim there are more areas than you can count that are each attributed to a different sect of Judaism… Breslov, Toldos Aharon, Slonim, and Karliner just to name a few, each with their own distinctions in dress so that you can tell what Rebbe or Rav they have allegiances to. It’s a great place to observe traditional Judaism in all it’s different forms, so long as you are dressed modestly and not walking in a group with both men and women in it.
Over the course of a few hours, Chaya took us through back streets and winding alleyways to shuls we never would have found on our own. We witnessed all different types of dances and songs in a handful of different sukkahs and beit knessets. It was amazing to see so many different types of Jews invited into these ultra-orthodox neighborhoods. No matter what background, everyone was invited to join in on the simcha. I’ve never seen such an open display of Ahavat Yisrael, and it was heart-warming and enlightening at the same time 🙂
One of the highlights of our evening was name-dropping. The Toldos Aharon group of Chassidim is well known for their passionate dances, which vary from circles of break-dance style moves to well-organized line dances to all-out rock concert-esque mosh pits. (Watch the video below from last year.) Because they are so well-known, the Toldos Aharon shul is always completely overcrowded during Sukkot, to the point where last year girls were getting hurt just trying to get in to watch the men dance! Because of that, this year they had their entire neighborhood blocked off with guards at the entrances and the only way you could get in is if you had a ticket. Well there were 13 of us and 0 tickets but we wanted to get in. Luckily, since Chaya is so awesome, she was able to name-drop. Turns out that her grandfather was a very well-known chassid of Toldos Aharon, so just mentioning his name magically produced 13 tickets from a chassid standing near the gate. Amazing how well that works 😉
All in all it was a crazy experience, one that would have been totally impossible without our amazing staff here at Mayanot!