Pimp My Sukkah

by SUSANNAH LONG · June 9, 2010

It's never too early to start planning your sukkah for Sukkot, the Jewish harvest festival.As the WSJ reports, a Sukkah City contest is going down in our very own backyard! So jump in and create a bad mutha-sukkah of your very own.

(FYI, gents and gentiles: a sukkah is a temporary structure similar to those that the Israelites lived in during their exodus in the wilderness. Sukkahs are built during Sukkot to serve as places of "hospitality and worship.")

Yeah, we didn't make up that mutha-sukkah joke. We got it off the internet. We also misspelled "sukkah" seven times before we got it right. And we're still not sure if "sukkahs" is the correct plural. Don't judge.

The nonprofit Reboot, which tries to spice up old Jewish customs, is holding the "Sukkah City" design contest to encourage architecturally-minded Chosen People to reimagine the traditional sukkah. The contestants' submissions will be judged by a jury loaded with big names, from architect Thom Mayne to American Institute of Architects Exec Director Rick Bell.

Sukkah City Founders Joshua Foer and Roger Bennett, pretending to do architect-y stuff for the cameraman. [Photo courtesy of the WSJ]

The Book of Leviticus specifies that a sukkah must be at least three feet tall and must have at least three walls, although the third wall may be a partial one. The roof must allow a clear view of the sky and be built from organic materials. Other than that, there's plenty of wiggle room . . . as the WSJ points out, one of the walls can made out of a large, living animal, like a whale or an elephant. Suh-weet.

Contest participants are already freakin' out about the competition: Clothing designer Adam Baruchowitz, for example, is gleefully building his sukkah out of recycled raincoats. That sounds cute and all, but we think we already saw that Project Runway episode. If Baruchowitz's design does make it to the final round, his sukkah will be displayed in Union Square in late September along with the eleven other finalists.

You don't have to wait for the bigwigs to declare a winner, however; the world is swimming with prototypes for bitchin' sukkahs already.  You can go the pimpingest route and  make a miniature edible one, akin to a gingerbread house . . .

. . . or a giant edible one, like that built in 2007 by the municipality of Jerusalem. That 1,000 square-meter sukkah was constructed in Safra Square out of more than two tons of candy. Organizers called the structure "HaSukkah-Rya," a pun on the Hebrew word for hard candy. Visitors to the mega-sukkah could pick up free sweets, and marvel at the walls studded with bubble-gum and crystallized sugar. If only we could find photos of it on the interblag!

You could go for an artsy/modern/stylized sukkah, like this one built by a handful of college students at Wesleyan:

[Photo courtesy of The Chronicle of Higher Education]

There are, of course, specialty sukkah shops like Sukkahman , which sell pop-up and canvas sukkahs. So for a paltry couple thousand dollars, you can own a pre-fab model that looks exactly like a 70-buck Ikea wardrobe.

Ikea.                                                        Sukkahman.

Go "green" with a sukkah made of cornstalks, paper cut-outs and minimal lattice-work sides . . .

[Photo courtesy of Sharon, CT Daily Photo]

Short on space? Don't whine. Build your own balcony, like those hardcore space-strapped Jerusalemites. (In all seriousness, though, don't do that.)

[photo courtesy of CosmicX]

You could just go mobile if your city life doesn't jive with sukkah-space. If the Mitzvah Tank Office in Crown Heights can drive an 18-wheeler sukkah through Times Square, and if those quickly sinking Venetians can figure it out, then you can at least steal a rickshaw and stick your sukkah on the back.

[Photo Courtesy of COLLive]                             [Photo courtesy of SmellyBlog]