Certain neighborhoods are becoming increasingly sought after by observant Jews—but in keeping with what is written in the Torah, apartment hunting can be a formidable undertaking. Observant Jews not only have to deal with New York City’s low vacancy rate but they need to find a home that, most importantly, is within walking distance to shul (synagogue) from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday and some Jewish holidays—owing to the fact that Sabbath obligations, of which there are a lot, do not allow one to drive a car. It goes against what’s written in the Torah to start or extinguish fires during the Sabbath, and, well, cars burn fuel. And by the way, this also means cooking only one, single, solitary item.
Photo © Paul Clemence
The Jewish holiday Sukkot, which began on Wednesday evening, has architecture, construction, and design built into the festival. To observe the holiday, Jews around the world build and decorate temporary “booths” known as sukkahs, and spend Sukkot’s eight days eating meals with friends and family inside them. Depending on one’s level of observance, some individuals sleep in them as well.
When it comes to sukkahs in New York, where backyards are few and far between, institutions and individuals take advantage of the space available to them. This includes having sukkahs in parks or courtyards, on roofs and balconies, and even on the sidewalk dining area of a restaurant. We wanted to highlight a few of the city’s sukkahs with particular interest to either their location, design, or both.
Image courtesy of MNCY
Long considered the capital of Jewish America, this overpoweringly cramped neighborhood was considered by many to be the greatest concentration of Jewish life in nearly 2,000 years.
Between 1880 and 1924, 2.5 million mostly-impoverished Ashkenazi Jews came to the US and nearly 75 percent took up residence on the Lower East Side. According to the Library of Congress, by 1900, more than 700 people per acre were settling in a neighborhood lined with tenements and factories. And as quickly as they descended on the streets, all sharing a common language (mostly Yiddish) and most certainly, similar backgrounds, they quickly established synagogues as early as 1865 (the landmarked Bialystoker Synagogue, whose congregants were mostly Polish immigrants from Bailystok), small shops, pushcarts teeming with goods, social clubs and even financial-aid societies.
By 1910, the Lower East Side’s population was well over the five million mark, but sadly, such congestion habitually caused havoc.