JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Students stood in the pouring rain with no raincoats, building a hut outside UF Health Jacksonville.
It's called a sukkah, traditionally built during the week-long Jewish festival of Sukkot.
The students were doing it to honor one of their own, Orly Ohayon (pictured below on left), a 16-year-old who was hit by a car with her mom, Esther Ohayon (pictured below on right), Friday while walking to a Yom Kippur service.
Her mom died.
"It's just a tragic situation. Esther was just a sweet, wonderful woman, and Orly is just a genuinely sweet young lady," said Edith Horovitz, of Martin J. Gottlieb Day School.
So sweet that friends refuse to leave the 16-year-old's bedside, except to go outside to bring the Jewish holiday to her.
The students are middle schoolers from the Torah Academy of Jacksonville, where Orly is a current member, and the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School, where Orly graduated and frequently built sukkahs for the sick.
"It happens that when she was in the program, there was a year where we did have a member of the community who had had some type of procedure and was not able to build his own, and it was her class who went to his home and built it for him that year," Horovitz said. "So what could be more significant than us turning around and doing the same thing for Orly and her family when they need us."
The students took turns putting the sukkah together. They used zip ties, worked together and brought over greenery.
Then it was time for the fun part: throwing the leaves and branches on the top of the hut and hanging festive decorations.
Sukkahs were built as a temporary place for Jews to stay next to their fields during harvest. They would also carry the huts on their backs as they wandered through the desert.
The students don't know if Orly will be able to see the sukkah, but she knows they're building it to honor her and so her loyal friends at the hospital can use it to eat in and observe commandment.
After they set up the hut, the students put up a sign and flowers on the grass to honor Orly's mother. Then they took a picture to send to Orly upstairs.
"It continues building the idea that her family and friends and community are here for her, that we care about her and we love her," Horovitz said.
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