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The Schmooze

Sukkah City’s Cross-Country Plans in 2011

It may be hard to believe, but Sukkah City — the ambitious, large-scale architectural competition that took over Manhattan’s Union Square Park for two days last week — came from modest beginnings.

“The idea came to me this past fall while I was doing sketches for my own backyard sukkah,” co-founder Joshua Foer told the Forward.

Now, 620 design submissions, 12 finalists, thousands of visitors and more than 17,000 voters later, Sukkah City hopes to set up huts around the country for Sukkot 2011.

“Our goal is to fan it out across the nation next year to 15 cities,” Roger Bennett, cofounder of the Jewish think tank Reboot, which helped organize the competition, told JTA.

The event garnered attention from media outlets nationwide and piqued the curiosity of Jews and non-Jews or, more generally, anyone who happened to take a stroll through Union Square on September 19 or 20.

Sukkah City already has global appeal: Entrants from 43 countries submitted designs. And the 12 finalists have made their way around New York, finding homes at the Yeshiva University Museum and JCC Manhattan, not to mention empty street corners.

At least one public sukkah — at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles — was inspired by Sukkah City.

“We were inspired by the goals of the project, which tapped into something of interest not only to the Jewish community but the larger community: issues of shelter and caring for the earth and the world around us,” Sheri Bernstein, the center’s education director, told JTA. “When we heard about Sukkah City, it confirmed that this is of interest to people. It’s a point where Jewish values can connect with issues of wider concern.”

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