What Sukkahfest Means to Me

By Rhonda Greif

Upon entering Isabella Freedman you are greeted by a warm welcoming wooden sign “We are blessed by your arrival.”

This just about sums up the overall feeling of good cheer that surrounds Sukkahfest from beginning to end and stays with you long after you have physically left the grounds.

Sukkahfest is truly a unique experience. After having just returned from #5, I’m excited to share what Sukkahfest means to me and my family. 

Five (5) focuses for Five (5) Sukkahfest celebrations:

  1. Sukkat Shalom. This is the focal point of the entire stay and is decorated simply but beautifully. From that first evening, you are enveloped by the soft lighting which invites you in and makes you feel right at home. 
  2. Farm-to-Table. Food at Isabella Freedman is incredible. A delicious variety of meat, chicken and fish (and vegetarian), tons of amazing vegetables, great soups plus seemingly endless bottles of both red and white wines and yummy challah (don’t forget the honey). 
  3. Fall Foliage. The natural beauty of the area enhances the Sukkahfest experience tenfold. One of my favorite activities is just walking on the road towards the Adama farm and the small quaint town nearby admiring the gorgeous changing leaves almost forming a beautiful pathway. 
  4. Family. Whether you arrive at Sukkahfest as a single or couple, with friends or loved ones, you leave with a new “family”. There are lots of familiar faces but always new participants that you can’t help but bump into and start a conversation hanging out in the main room, during sessions, on line for the buffet or during davening. 
  5. Goats. Visiting these adorable animals and hearing about the Adama internship program is quite enlightening. Educating young people from all walks of life about sustainability is so important. 

On a personal note, my husband and I (and our 3 sons) were very fortunate 5 years ago to be included in a wonderful group from back home previously attending Sukkahfest. It’s a testament to the folks that run Isabella Freedman that not only have my sons come back year after year (our family now includes a wife and a girlfriend), but after my husband passed away 2 years ago they initiated coming back to be all together. 

Seeing their genuine camaraderie, playing games, reading and relaxing in the hammocks, hanging out in one of their rooms, talking and laughing in the sukkah is a beautiful thing. 

Sukkahfest allows you to “do” the holiday on your own terms. Find a bench and soak up the sun, attend thought provoking discussions, hike the must see Overlook trail, tour the farm, take a goat for a walk, play Bananagrams, enjoy the uplifting service of your choice and experience a very meaningful Hallel and Hackafot. And of course eat to your heart’s content. 

Can’t wait for you to return or to be one of the new smiling faces. 

Rhonda Beth Greif lives in Stamford, CT, and has been attending Sukkahfest since 2015. She and her husband Avi (z”l) have three sons together: Matt (& Liat), Coby (& Heather), and Jensen. Formerly an MCI/Verizon employee for 28 years, Rhonda is now a Mah Jongg instructor, health coach (Optavia), and personalized bag representative (Initials, inc.) and loving them all.

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