Early reports that the Jewish sukkah erected by the Groton Interfaith Council on Saturday was apparently vandalized are false. It turns out that the church’s sexton found the sukkah leaning on the First Parish Church yesterday afternoon and then took it all the way down to prevent any damage to the church. The message about the damage and demolition did not surface until this morning after police investigated.
This morning, the religious structure was a pile of lumber, evergreen boughs, corn and wheat stalks, and colorful ribbons lying in a heap beside the solid white clapboards of the First Parish Church in Groton Center.
A sukkah is a temporary structure that symbolizes shelters in which the Israelites dwelt during 40 years of travel in the desert after leaving Egypt. It was the focal point of a joyful interfaith celebration of Sukkot on Sunday, a week-long harvest festival that follows the solemn Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.
This particular sukkah was a lot more substantial than most modern sukkahs. It was 16 feet square, built around nine pressure-treated 4×4 inch posts, each eight feet long and weighing about 50 pounds. Corner-braced and screwed together with long drywall screws, the sukkah has been erected for five years by Josh Degen, owner of a landscaping construction company and a Groton selectman, and about 20 volunteers from the Interfaith Council.
There were no especially high winds yesterday afternoon. People working in the church yesterday said that the sukkah was standing when they left the child care center just afternoon yesterday. Maintenance staff working for Lawrence Academy, which surrounds the church grounds, weren’t in the area yesterday afternoon, but verified it was standing in the early afternoon. The sexton reportedly found the sukkah leaning on the church in mid-afternoon and took it down to prevent damage to the church. The church building was not damaged.
Groton police were on the scene early this morning, taking photos and beginning an investigation. Their investigation turned up the facts of the matter — that mother nature damaged the structure and forced its removal.
Leslie Lathrop, a member of the Interfaith Council, picked through the wreckage this morning, salvaging ribbons and garlands that children had used to decorate the sukkah on Saturday and Sunday. She was unsure if the group would put the sukkah back up this year because the holiday was already half over. “But we’ll be putting the sukkah back up next year. You can count on it,” she said.