(JTA) — As Hurricane Joaquin gains steam off the southeastern coast of the United States, the question has begun to circulate online: Are Jews allowed to take down their sukkahs in the case of a storm?
The holiday of Sukkot, which began last Sunday, runs through this Sunday evening. Hurricane Joaquin, the first large tropical storm of the hurricane season (whose name means “raised by God” in Hebrew), could hit east coast shores this weekend — just before the end of the holiday.
Regardless of whether the Category 3 hurricane does make landfall, it will bring as much as 20 inches of rain to states such as Georgia, the Carolinas, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey.
Some families and synagogues that have constructed sukkahs — the temporary huts that are meant to represent shelter during the harvest holiday of Sukkot — are worried that the inclement weather could destroy the symbolic structures.
national weather service should add a "when to dismantle sukkah" element to its hurricane advisories— Joanne Kenen (@JoanneKenen) October 1, 2015
Sun. Sun. Sun. Sun. Sun. Sun. Sun. Sun. Sukkah goes up. Thunderstorm. Torrential downpour. High Winds. Hurricane.— Me (@almichanlee) September 30, 2015
Some are more confident that their sukkahs will defy the storm.
My father's sukkah survived Hurricane Gloria, unbroken and standing. Bring on #Joaquin! The next generation is ready!— Noam (@noyam) September 30, 2015
According to Jewish law, a sukkah should be taken down if it is going to be damaged or poses danger to those in or around it. If it is damaged, it is technically no longer fulfilling the requirements of the holiday.
Rabbi Marjorie Slome of the West End Synagogue on the Rockaway beach in Queens, New York added that Sukkot is meant to be enjoyed in comfort.
“It’s supposed to be the season of rejoicing and you’re not going to be rejoicing if rain is getting into your soup,” Slome said.
Slome, who is Reform, has experience juggling Judaism and tropical storms. Her synagogue was inundated with five feet of water during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and is still reconstructing its damaged offices.
“I’ll pay attention to the weather and do whatever they’re telling us to do,” Slome said.
If you’re a car-owning Jew on the Upper West Side, beware!
Rosh Hashanah brought a shakeup over filming of the new “Ghostbusters” movie, which came to the neighborhood over the holiday. Residents on the closed-off streets were asked to move their cars during the holiday, when anyone observing it would be unable to drive. A quiet uproar followed.
Now, adding insult to injury, over the first days of Sukkot, Clint Eastwood’s “Sully” began filming, with the same burden on residents, in the same famously Jewish area. And while Ghostbusters is about some goons who manage to destroy much of the Upper West Side — or at least cover it in marshmallow fluff — Sully is about Chelsey Sullenberger, the hero pilot who landed a damaged plane in the Hudson in 2009, capably avoiding all kinds of opportunities for destruction. You would think a film crew telling a story about a do-gooder would be interested in do-gooding itself, but perhaps not.
As a Jew hailing from Denver and St. Louis, where everyone covertly ignores the dictum of thou-shalt-not-drive—after all, getting to synagogue from most places in either city without a car takes the same amount of time as an entire Torah service—this is a foreign problem to me. None the less, what gives, New York?
It’s too easy to use Clint Eastwood quotes against him in this situation, so I’ll just say: we’ve tried being reasonable and we don’t like it. Now get out of here before we have a heart attack.
Ah, Sukkot — the time of year you hope it’s still warm enough to be able to eat outside, lest you freeze mid-Challah bite. And what better way to reflect on the holiday then by ranking our favorite Sukkahs? We’ve got our top 5 ranked.
Both #5 and #4 come from the Sukkah City contest in Union Square in 2010. Artists submitted their most inventive sukkahs for consideration, and the results were stunning.
No.5 is called Shim Sukkah, and was created by tinder,tinker. It is made from hundreds of tiny wooden shims.
No.4 is called Gathering, and was created by Dale Suttle, So Sugita, and Ginna Nguyen. This one is also made from wood, but has a very unusual shape from the standard Sukkah.
No.3 comes from The Jewish Monkland Centre in Montreal. It is made from 24,000 staples, 290 cardboard boxes, 19 languages, and tons of recycled material.
No.1 comes from Danielle Durchslag and Ryan Frank. The pair started planning their sukkah project, called the Wandering Sukkah, in November 2014. Now, their will travel around all 5 boroughs of New York City during Sukkot 2015 on a truck they bought earlier this year with their brightly colored sukkah nestled safely in the truck bed.
I originally spoke to Danielle and Ryan when their $7,000 kickstarter met its goal in late June. They had gotten the idea for a mobile Sukkah from Lubavitch Mitzvah tanks, and, like the Lubavitch, hope to “get a lot of different kinds of people experiencing the sky through the installation [and] improve the energy of New York city for that week.”
Now that their launch time is upon them, they plan to go visit a “really dynamic mix of local museums, religious spaces and secular spaces,” according to Danielle.
The final design is based on New York itself. It uses a bright color palette, and the form is inspired by skyscrapers. The base on the truck bed is green, just like a city block.
It’s a “single serving of urban respite three feet above the ground,” Danielle summed up.
See if the Wandering Sukkah stops near you!
At Sukkot, as we build or assemble and decorate our temporary shelters in the backyard, we might complain about the chilly weather or having hammered our thumbs or the rising cost of etrogim. One Toronto organization is using the opportunity to draw community attention to a much more serious problem: homelessness. Kehilla, a community organization devoted to serving Jewish household experiencing a gap between their housing costs and what their families can afford, presented the 4th annual Sukkahville art show and competition this year to raise money (and awareness) around homelessness.
For the competition, Sukkahville solicits artist and architect proposals from across the world, requiring that the structures be built in accordance with Jewish laws that govern sukkah construction — they must provide shade in the daytime but be open to the sky, the roof must be made of natural materials that grow in the soil like leaves and branches, and the structure must provide some shelter from the elements. Beyond the traditional strictures (overseen by a Toronto rabbi) and a few practical matters, designs are beautiful and wild, opening the senses to the beauty and possibility of a sukkah that dazzles. Eight finalists are chosen from the designs submitted, and those sukkot are the ones exhibited during Sukkahville.
(JTA) — For those on-the-go types who prefer to travel through, rather than live in, their (very) temporary dwelling, there’s a new option: the drive-thru sukkah.
Following the lead of Miami’s Bet Shira Congregation — which in 2009 opened what is believed to be the first drive-thru sukkah — a suburban Philadelphia synagogue is this year touting its own car-friendly booth.
Har Zion Temple, which, like Bet Shira, is Conservative, is inviting motorists to stop in throughout the holiday (on yom tov as well as hol hamoed) and say the blessing over the lulav and etrog. The drive-thru is in addition to a more traditional and, er, pedestrian sukkah on the other side of the synagogue.
Gavi Miller, the shul’s executive director, told JTA that drivers are welcome to bring the lulav and etrog into their car or to step outside and do the blessing. “The idea is to reach out to people where they are,” he said.
“This is another way to make the holiday a little more accessible,” he added. “Lots of people have memories of Passover seders, Chanukah and Rosh Hashanah, but some don’t have Sukkot memories.”
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