Conjuring old Sukkot traditions in a changed world

The Museum at Eldridge street has been closed, due to the coronavirus pandemic, for over six months. Our staff and docents miss so much about being at the Museum every day – meeting new visitors from around the world, sharing a transportive experience together, relishing the calm and  beauty of the historic sanctuary. And we miss our eclectic neighborhood, too! The Museum lives in a borderland neighborhood, straddling the Lower East Side and Chinatown. While walking the streets, you are constantly confronted with reminders of this intersection. The perfect example? Our 19th-century synagogue stands just two doors down from a vibrantly decorated Buddhist temple. The old and new worlds mix and mingle in fascinating ways in our neighborhood.

So today, since we miss it so much, we’re sharing a blog post originally written in 2017. The Sukkot stand discussed in this post is a perfect example of our neighborhood’s trademark meeting of east and west, traditional and contemporary.

Sadly, our staff at Eldridge aren’t regularly going to the neighborhood these days. So we’re not sure if the Sukkot stand is operating this year. If you do know, please tell us! We’re keeping our fingers crossed that it’s up and running – safely masked and socially distanced.

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A Sukkot staple is back in the Lower East Side and they’re ready to provide for all of your holiday needs. The stand, on the corner of Canal and East Broadway, is a family business and has been supplying Sukkot products for Jewish communities in the neighborhood and across the city for over 40 years. They opened once again this Sunday.

The Sukkot holiday is a traditional pilgrimage festival, and is commonly celebrated by eating meals in a temporary hut built specifically for the holiday (called a sukkah). These spaces are generally modest and minimal (although a 2010 project called Sukkah City installed high-concept and beautifully designed sukkahs in Union Square!). Besides taking meals in the outdoor hut, Sukkot is also marked by waving the lulav and etrog during prayer on each of the seven days, usually with the exception of the Sabbath. A lulav is a palm branch holding two willow (aravah in Hebrew) branches on the left side and three myrtle (hadass in Hebrew) branches on the right. A etrog is a citron, similar to a lemon.

Etrogs aplenty.

The stand on Canal and East Broadway supplies kosher lulavs for Sukkot, as well as shofars and other holiday decorations. The lulavs and etrogs are imported from Israel, Egypt, Morocco, and some are even locally sourced from New York. The stand is open from 8am – 8pm and closes on Wednesday, October 11th at 8pm. A set of lulav and etrog will cost you $30 (cash only, like the old days!).

A lulav and etrog in our beautiful sanctuary.

We’re thankful that even in a changing neighborhood, family businesses and pieces of Jewish heritage remain. Stop by the stand if you’re feeling in the Sukkot spirit – and don’t forget to come by the Museum while you’re in the neighborhood!

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