Sukkot is a week-long Jewish holiday typically filled with community events and family parties, alongside traditional rituals. On account of COVID-19, however, the possibility of celebrating in 2020 seemed shuttered.
As communities are separated in this time of gathering, and many without a sukkah, Chaya Orenstein and Rabbi Menachem Orenstein – co-directors of Tigard Chabad Jewish Center – think they found a way to keep the holiday alive this year.
Sukkot celebrates the gathering of the harvest and commemorates the protection God provided for the people of Israel when they left Egypt. A widespread custom of the holiday is to eat meals and dwell in a foliage-covered booth – a sukkah – which symbolizes the time the Israelites spent in the wilderness after being freed from slavery.
“Months ago, I remember thinking that by the High Holiday season certainly everything would be open,” Rabbi Orenstein said. “But as time went on, we realized that we have to get a little creative and bring that holiday to the people. A mobile sukkah on wheels seemed like the perfect answer. It’s a great opportunity to connect with G-d and with the community.”
And thus was born the ‘Sukkah Mobile’; a sukkah situated on the back of a pick-up truck designed to bring a sukkah to the people. Through the week of Oct. 5, the Orensteins with their mobile sukkah planned to arrive anywhere there was a request.
“We encouraged people to spend some time in the sukkah and have a quick snack, as eating in the sukkah is biblically mandated,” Rabbi Orenstein said. “Throughout the holiday, special effort is made to eat meals under the sukkah.”
Throughout the week-long holiday, Rabbi Orenstein saw over 30 families, many of which were grateful for the opportunity.
“The response has truly been phenomenal,” he said. “Many mentioned that while in other years they met up with friends, family or their community to celebrate Sukkot, this year they weren’t able to so. And the sukkah mobile was their one and only opportunity. For some, this was their first time celebrating this wonderful holiday.”