Kent State Hillel and Architecture Fraternity Partner in design competition


Students mingle in the lobby of The Hillel Cohn Center before the annual Erev Rosh Hashanah service on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015.

Kelly Powell

    Judaism and architecture majors were in the spotlight on the second floor of the student center all week.

   Students involved in Hillel at Kent State and Alpha Rho Chi, Kent State’s architecture fraternity, collaborated in the second annual Sukkah Design Competition Monday through Thursday.

   “This was a student initiative,” Hillel Rabbi Lee Moore said. “They were inspired by similar competitions on other campuses.”

  Hillel announced senior architecture major Zack Skwara as the winner Wednesday. Architecture professors Joseph Ferut and Frederick Lucak and a panel of Hillel representatives judged the pieces. The first-place recipient was given a monetary prize of $100.

     In-person and Facebook votes recognized junior architecture major Felipe Valadez as the competition’s “Fan Favorite.”

     This year’s theme was climate.

  “Each student got to decide which climate to create,” senior architecture major Cayla Walter said. “Some are more practical than others; it’s more of a conceptual design.”

    The object of the competition was to create a successful model of a “sukkah.” This temporary dwelling place is one of several things Jewish people honor during the holiday of Sukkot, a weeklong festival with the intention of spending the whole period outside.

    “A sukkah is a temporary dwelling that is built once a year,” Moore said. “You eat, sleep and spend time it in. The things that you would normally do in your house are things that you would do in your sukkah.”

     She said that the purpose of this interim housing is not to make a hardship. “The holiday, in Hebrew, is called ‘Z’man Simchatenu,’ which means ‘the season of our joy,’” Moore said.

     Important qualifications of this special housing, and of the competition, include a roof material representative of vegetation and openings in the roof to view the stars.

    “From a Jewish perspective, [the architecture students] take the laws that we have and interprets them as something that is gorgeous,” Hillel representative Tali Merdler said. “It’s really nice to be able to plan with another group on campus that is not even associated with religion. We serve different communities but serve both of us at the same time.”

    The competition served as a platform for architecture students to advance their portfolios. Walter said that your admission to graduate school is mostly determined by the success of your portfolio.

   The event not only benefitted architecture students’ progress, but also assisted Hillel’s recognition. “It gets people talking,” Moore said. “It brings more awareness to students who aren’t Jewish and enhances Jewish life.”

  For members of Hillel, the competition was another way to celebrate the holiday, and for architecture students, it acted as a new way to connect through use of their skills.

“It’s a cool thing for outside the classroom,” Moore said. “It seemed like an obvious connection.”

    Kelly Powell is the religion reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].