A Spectacle of Booths: Sukkot in Philly


See our festive photo gallery of sukkah-building in the area.

With fall comes the harvest holiday of Sukkot, kick-started with the hut building that generally begins on the day following Yom Kippur.

Since the ritual booths have fairly simple legal boundaries in terms of their construction — according to Jewish law, the structure must have three walls that can withstand terrestrial winds and a roof made from organic material that is no longer connected to the ground — Jews have found creative ways to put their own stamp on their sukkot. With endless decoration possibilities, each sukkah retains a unique identity.

For the Schumans of Elkins Park, building the family sukkah is a huge annual event.
"We have collected decorations for decades and love to celebrate this wonderful fall festival to the extreme," Susan Schuman wrote in an email. "My father and I have always loved Sukkot, and he and I have shared the task of building and decorating each year. As the decades passed, the job of construction has been done with the help of family members, friends, contractors and anyone who is available."
They even used to cut their own greens for the roof, she noted, but now a gardener provides them.
The sukkah is erected at Schuman's parents' home, also in Elkins Park, where she, her husband, Neil, and their 27-year-old son, Eric, all take part in the family tradition. 
Schuman takes charge of the decorations. They eliminated strings of fresh produce many years ago because it was too wasteful, she said, but they've accumulated plenty of other harvest-themed decorations and light sets to hang up since then. 
"We cut up old calendars, Jewish New Year cards, postcards," Judaica posters, banners and signs, she said, and "repurposed Thanksgiving and even Christmas decorations when they seemed appropriate."
"My brothers and I slept in our sukkah as children," Schuman said. "Now my young nieces enjoy making decorations for display. It is truly a four-generation undertaking. The festival has evolved into an event and our Sukkah is our pride and joy!"
The Schumans and several other families in the area shared their sukkah building experience — and the fruits of their labor — with the Jewish Exponent. View the photos they sent us by clicking on the media icon at the top right of the screen.

Philadelphia resident Leon Rosen also shared this one-minute time-lapse video of his sukkah building. Select "HD" for the best picture.

Did you also build a sukkah at your home, synagogue or even on your campus? If so, please share your stories and photos with us on Facebook or email [email protected]. Tip: The best photos include no more than four people. Be sure to tell us who's pictured. 


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