New York NCSY spearheaded a unique outreach operation to inspire Jews who have never had a Sukkah of their own to experience the immersive mitzva of Sukkot. Now in its third year, The Sukkah Project gifts Sukkahs to families across New York who are committed to eating meals in their Sukkah and hosting other Jewish friends and family.
This year NCSY provided 67 Jewish homes with a Sukkah, and with these families averaging 20 guests over the chag, over 1,300 unaffiliated Jews experienced Sukkos in a way they never had before. In addition to providing the physical structure, NCSY also arranged for Zoom classes to teach participants about the spiritual themes of the chag, and set each family up with teen volunteers from local yeshiva day schools to help them build their Sukkah.
“Building a Sukkah adjacent to your home for 8 days is a significant commitment for people who don’t live in a frum community and do not identify as fully observant” said Rabbi Gideon Black, CEO of New York NCSY, “I find their willingness to step out of their comfort zone to be incredibly impressive”. Yet the families who made the commitment found it to be really uplifting and hope to encourage their friends to take part in the Sukkah Project next year. “This is a remarkable journey and a true blessing it has been to have shared our first sukkah with our friends and family.” said Lori Levine from Bellmore, NY. “Never would I have thought that by having our new sukkah I would feel even more connected to Judaism, NCSY, and new friendships than I have by sharing in this experience.”
Brooklyn mom R Vays added “The family quality time that we got from this experience is completely priceless. We had such a good time putting the sukkah together and building it, decorating it, and most importantly inviting the grandparents to join us for a meal. It was like ‘Eating in our little clubhouse.’ It taught us so much to appreciate family while enjoying the holiday.”
Kayla Paul, a sophomore in SKA, one of the teens who volunteered to help build for the Sukkah Project during the Aseret Yemei Teshuva reflected, “Building sukkahs with my friends was so meaningful. We’ve never built a sukkah before, so we were a bit nervous and unsure what to expect. But… it was an awesome bonding experience! It was so crazy to think that this family may have not even had a sukkah if we didn’t come to help.”