Looking for a sukkah to sit in? If you have high-level security clearance, you might want to consider the one at the official residence of Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden.
The first-time appearance on Monday of a prefabricated sukkah on the patio by the pool behind Number One Observatory Circle leaves us wondering if this marks the start of an annual tradition for the Bidens.
“As far as the vice president’s staff knew, this was the first sukkah ever put up at either the vice president’s residence or at the White House,” said Meredith Englander Polsky, who was invited with her son Hayden, 8, and daughter Lucy, 7, to decorate the temporary structure. Polsky is the director of training and advocacy for Matan, an organization that advocates for Jewish students with special needs.
The decorating crew also included Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, CEO of RespectAbility, a national advocacy organization for the disabled, and William Daroff, Vice President of the Jewish Federations of North America. They were joined by their own children, as well as by a few other boys and girls, some of whom have disabilities.
“Jennifer called me up last week, right before Sukkot began, and told me that the vice president wanted to build a sukkah at his home. Apparently, he was set to host an event on Tuesday evening to which Jewish people were invited, and he wanted to make sure to have a sukkah for them,” Polsky told The Times of Israel. “He said he wanted the sukkah to represent inclusivity.”
“Jennifer asked me to make decorations for the sukkah last Sunday with MATAN’s weekly class of 11 children at Shaare Torah Congregation in Gaithersburg, MD,” Polsky continued. The students, with conditions including autism, communication disorders and ADHD, made paper chains and hanging ornaments shaped like fall fruit, flowers and stars, decorated with stickers and the children’s first names.
The sukkah had already been put up by members of Chabad by the time the decorating group arrived at the Biden home. After an hour and a half of hanging the decorations, the group was ready to leave. But they were asked to wait.
Out came Dr. Jill Biden to greet the sukkah decorators and give the children goody bags containing fun items labeled with the vice presidential emblem.
“She asked the kids about the holiday,” Polsky reported. “My son Hayden showed her a sign saying ‘Sukkot’ he made out of pipe cleaners and explained to her what it meant. She stayed and talked with us for about half an hour.”
“It was amazing,” Polsky reflected about being part of a first in US history.