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Sukkahs Open in Bryant Park, Times Square in Honor of Sukkot

By Jill Colvin | October 14, 2011 9:17am
The Sukkah has returned to Bryant Park, offering Jews from across the city a place to celebrate Sukkot.
The Sukkah has returned to Bryant Park, offering Jews from across the city a place to celebrate Sukkot.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

MIDTOWN — As families around the city began to celebrate the annual Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot that began at sundown Wednesday, "Sukkah in the City" has popped up on West 48th Street near Times Square.

Decorated with giant sunflowers, lady bugs, and a bright, blue sky, the Sukkah, with a roof of bamboo shoots and yellow flowers, was erected by real state firm Stonehenge Partners in an ode to the Sukkah City project that filled Union Square with creative takes on the Biblical shelters last year, organizers said.

“It’s nice. It’s something different in the city,” said security guard Chris Cangelosi, 25, who estimated that about 30 people had visited the Sukkah by late Thursday afternoon.

As part of their tradition, Jews around the world construct Sukkahs each year to commemorate the temporary structures they slept in during the 40 years spent in the dessert after the exodus from Egypt. Jews are instructed to eat and sleep in the structures, which must be partially covered with branches so those inside can see the sky.

Sukkahs in public spaces are especially popular gathering points in Manhattan, where tight apartments often rule out building a Sukkah of one’s own.

Farther south, Chabad Lubavitch of Midtown is continuing its more than decade-long tradition of constructing a gigantic Sukkah in Bryant Park, with enough space to accommodate as many as 100 people.

“It’s wonderful. It generates a lot of good will and holiday cheer,” said Rabbi Joshua Metzger, whose family oversees the Sukkah, which will remain in place through Oct. 21.

Metzger’s wife, Brocha Metzger, explained the Sukkah has become a gathering point for people across the city, including workers in the nearby skyscrapers, Garment Center and Diamond District, as well as tourists from around the world.

“It’s just not just for Jewish people. It’s a crossroads of the word,” said Brocha. “It’s means to be a unifying holiday among all the people… a shelter, an oasis," she said.

She noted that, even if they’re not familiar with the holiday, nearly everyone knows the biblical story of the Exodus and has some sort of harvest festival of their own.

“I wouldn’t miss this. It’s my favorite holiday in New York,” she said.

For many of those paying a visit to the park Thursday, the Sukkah, with its cedar roof, was a smell and taste of home.

“It’s beautiful. I think it’s gorgeous,” said Karen Ben, 32, an Israeli who is visiting New York to see her family, and paid a visit to the Sukkah because she was desperately missing home

“It’s good to have it. It makes me feel good. It’s part of us,” she said.

“Sukkah in the City” will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Firefighter’s Memorial Park at 235 West 48th Street through Oct. 18

Chabad Lubavitch of Midtown’s sukkah in Bryant Park at Sixth Avenue and West 41st Street will remain open through Oct. 21, with frequent services at the nearby 509 Fifth Avenue. Click here for a full schedule.