The art installation Ushpizin is displayed during the Sukkot holiday at Waterlooplein in Amsterdam. It revives an old Jewish custom from the pre- World War II era, when the area was known as the “Jewish quarter”. During Sukkot people would build “Sukkot” (temporary shelters) next to their homes.
Hertog-Nadler prepared this exhibit at the request of Julia van der Krieke, a researcher of Jewish history in the university of Amsterdam and in cooperation with the Jewish cultural quarter and the city of Amsterdam.
Interpreting the Sukkot tradition from the past
Waterlooplein used to be the heart of the Jewish neighborhood where Sukkot structures were a common sight during Sukkot. These structures varied in size and design. Some stood on wooden pickets. Some had opening roofs that could be shut against the rain. However, they disappeared from Amsterdam's streets during World War II. When the Jewish community was deported, and the area was transformed.
The contemporary exhibit offers a modern interpretation of Sukkot. It features three Sukkot, made of Metal poles, in different sizes and heights with printed canvas walls. The exterior prints depict original Jewish houses from the neighborhood, while the interior prints relate to Judaism, Sukkot, and the concept of home.
Reviving the Amsterdam jewish culture
Nir Nadler explains their choice of materials: “We used metal poles to maintain the temporary nature of Sukkot. These Sukkot are kosher, with canvas walls. The ceiling is made of reeds, meeting the natural requirements and providing a clear view of the sky."
Located on the same streets where Jews celebrated Sukkot for years, the exhibit briefly resurrects the community that once thrived in these streets.
Chaia Hertog emphasizes, "The goal of the exhibit was to revive Amsterdam's Jewish culture, making it visible to the public. We are here." Nir adds, "People at the market, many of whom are Jewish, were deeply moved because they felt acknowledged again."
Observing the city through the clouds
Each Sukkah features a window that offers a view of the bustling street from within the decorated walls. The smallest Sukka resembles a house, reflecting the longing for a home. The medium Sukka represents the four species in Jewish tradition. The highest Sukkah creates an internalized outdoors experience, with clouds on the inside, allowing visitors to observe the city through them.
Chaia Hertog underscores, "This exhibit's significance lies in representing a street within a public space. Despite technical challenges and safety restrictions, it reintroduces the Jewish community's presence to Amsterdam, a city with a rich Jewish history." Nir elaborates, "Amsterdam has many Jewish monuments related to the Holocaust victims. This exhibit brings forth a beautiful, positive Judaism, relevant to today, harking back to the time when Sukkot were an integral part of the city streets."
The exhibit is open at the Waterlooplein market throughout Sukkot, until October 6.