Sukkot was once the holiday of canvas walls (through which you feel every hint of a breeze), construction-paper chains (pray it won’t rain), and thin bamboo mats for ceilings.
But like all things these days, from scented candles to gym clothes, sukkahs are going luxe. From walls made entirely of boxwood, to suspended cage-bird lanterns, to centerpieces to rival a wedding at the Plaza: In wealthy Orthodox communities, florists are working frantically this week to design and decorate clients’ sukkahs.
Josh Spiegel, CEO of high-end floral, decor and production company Birch Event, loved this holiday from childhood — as a kid, he would decorate his grandfather’s sukkah two weeks in advance, hanging foil and fruits. “It’s always been my yontif [holiday],” he says.
The event designer, known for his elaborate florist creations at the most luxe events in the Orthodox community, is now selling a sukkah package — in which he transforms eight-day huts into an ethereal garden, or a Persian castle, according to a client’s preference. “It’s a challenge to create new ones every year - always putting a new twist, never repeat exactly.”
Spiegel says the cost of a custom-design sukkah ranges from $1,500-10,000. “People in the Orthodox community are paying more attention to the whole experience,” he says. “The sukkah is about the whole experience. I love taking a traditional sukkah and transitioning it into a piece of art that people walk into and say, ‘That’s incredible.’”
The move towards high-end decor is perhaps a 2017-esque fulfillment of the rabbinic concept of hiddur mitzvah, which is discussed in the Talmud as enhancing a mitzvah through beauty, in particular regarding the rituals of Sukkot: > “‘This is my G-d and I will beautify Him’ – Make your mitzvos beautiful in front of G-d: Make a beautiful Sukkah, Lulav, Tzitzit, and a beautiful Sefer Torah (Torah Scroll) written in nice ink with a nice quill by a professional scribe, and wrap it in nice silk.” (Talmud Shabbat 133b)
“It’s incredibly rewarding to watch Birch Event channel their passion and love of design for a beautiful holiday like Sukkot,” said Elisheva Perlman, CEO of the Anelis Group. “They are taking what they are mavens in and utilizing that incredible skill set for Sukkot.”
Watch the behind-the-scenes process to custom luxe sukkahs here:
This story "The Sukkah Goes From Deluxe To Ultra-Luxe: Flowers, Lattice, Cashmere — And $10,000 Price-Tag" was written by Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt.
Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt is the Life/Features editor at the Forward. She was previously a New York-based reporter for Haaretz. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Salon, and Tablet, among others. Avital teaches journalism at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women, and does pastoral work alongside her husband Rabbi Benjamin Goldschmidt in New York City.