Thinking Outside the Walls
If you can’t build your own sukkah, Levi Duchman pedals one right to you.
Since 2009, Duchman and his fellow Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic yeshiva students have been using nine bicycles to schlep the “PediSukkah” all over New York City. The 40-by-38 inch latticework huts are placed on rickshaws attached to bikes. Inside the sukkahs are tables, cookies, orange juice, and lulavs and etrogs “to give the opportunity [of celebrating the holiday] to the Jews who don’t have the chance to have their own sukkah in their backyard,” Duchman told JNS.org.
Duchman called the initiative a “very enthusiastic job” because of the spiritual aspect—making the ride itself not as difficult as one would imagine.
“We basically forget about the physical pedaling,” Duchman, 19, said.
Duchman isn’t alone in thinking outside the box—or more appropriately, outside the walls—when it comes to sukkah construction.
Brooklyn-based PopUp Sukkah produces portable structures resembling camp tents, with a convenient carrying case for the sukkah and schach (ceiling) included. The original PopUp Sukkah (born in 1999, now costs $199.99) was 4.5 by 4.5 by 6 feet—fitting two people—but after Yoni Raskin bought the company in 2005, PopUp Sukkah introduced a 4.5 by 6 by 6-foot model fitting four people (costs $289.99).
“Every year we find another issue [with the sukkahs] we can perfect,” Raskin told JNS.org.
PopUp Sukkah has developed a global reach through altruism, working with the Aleph Institute nonprofit and others to donate sukkahs to prisoners, U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and communities as far away as Australia, Raskin said.
If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, Raskin’s company should be pleased. PopUp Sukkah produced the first structure of its kind, and other products like the Fold “N” Go Sukkah ($149) have followed in the footsteps of the original. The Fold “N” Go—among the sukkahs marked as “new” by Brooklyn-based Leiter’s, which calls itself “the largest sukkah manufacturer in the world”—is 42 inches wide and 6 feet high, and much like the PopUp Sukkah comes with a bamboo schach mat and can be folded up into a carrying case.
“There have been a lot of copycats, but they’ve never really lasted in the market,” Raskin said.
Another new product offered by Leiter’s is the Sunshine Ease Lock sukkah, ranging in price from $519 for the 4 by 6-foot model and $1,519 for one measuring 12 by 24 feet. The sukkah was designed “exclusively for our warm southern friends,” the product description on the Leiter’s website says.
“With mesh all around you are assured maximum ventilation,” according to Leiter’s. “The windows allow airflow through your sukkah and the screens filter the direct sunlight allowing for the most pleasurable Yom Tov experience. Specifically designed for you in mind for maximum comfort. Combined with convenience & ease of our ease-lock system, installing & storing the sukkah is an absolute snap!”
The Sukkah Project, run by Judith and Steve Henry Herman out of Chapel Hill, NC, since 1996, offers structures including the Wood-Frame Sukkah (a wide price range starting from as cheap as $56), built with lumber linked together using a set of special steel connectors, and the Tubular Sukkah, built with “strong yet lightweight steel tubing known as galvanized conduit.”
Additionally, the company’s Six-Wall Hexagonal Tubular Sukkah ($450-$660) offers more room for dining and “is every bit as easy to build and store as our 4-walled models, and also features a conveniently secured door flap for privacy,” the website says. For 2012, the Sukkah Project launched instructional videos that help viewers “determine the type and size of sukkah that will work best for them. The videos can be seen on the SukkahProject YouTube Channel.
Besides Duchman’s efforts, Chabad annual outreach during the holiday includes the large-scale “Sukkah Mobile Project” of the organization’s Mitzvah Tank division. A fleet of pick-up trucks and flatbed trailers—staffed by rabbinical students—travels around New York City from Downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan’s Lower East Side to the Bronx, Westchester and Riverdale, sharing lulav and etrog sets as well as food with thousands of Jews.
PopUp Sukkah even gave one of its units last year to the Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York—a move Raskin said had “nothing to do with political issues.”
“The bottom line is, a Jew anywhere needs a sukkah no matter what they’re doing,” Raskin said.