Sure, you may have an expansive patio, deck or lawn outside your back door. But what if you don’t have a back door? What if your home is an apartment, condo or senior housing that looks out over an asphalt parking lot or grassy common?
Not to worry, it seems there are benevolent sukkah helpers out there building the tidy, open-air structures for many a Sukkot celebrator.
At Weinberg Village in Owings Mills, Linda Burstyn, coordinator of resident services, said the four-story senior apartment complex has a sukkah that is erected in the center of the campus that is convenient for everyone living in the five buildings. The Weinberg sukkah project is affiliated with CHAI (Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc.), an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.
“It’s in the courtyard,” Burstyn said. “We’ve been putting it up for about 10 years.”
Every year the Weinberg Village maintenance team sets up the sukkah and the residents decorate it.
“They bring new things to it every year — a mix of old and new,” Burstyn said, so the experience is different each year.
“They can go out and use it whenever they want and then one day during the holiday we hold a resident-sponsored program called ‘Snacks in the Sukkah’,” she said. “Where we offer refreshments and people come out and socialize and mingle. The sukkah is open to everyone, regardless of race or religion and brings residents together from all of the buildings. It’s a nice place to be.”
The residents look forward to the sukkah, taking ownership of decorating it and making it theirs. Burstyn conducts an education program during Sukkot for anyone who wants to learn more about the sukkah, Sukkot and its culture and traditions.
Over at North Oaks in Pikesville, Sherrie Polsky, director of community life services, said last year was the first year for the community sukkah at the eight-story complex.
“Prior to my coming here, my predecessor put up what I will call an indoor trellis in the dining room. And it was really quite lovely and they would serve hors d’oeuvres under it,” Polsky said. “But as time wore down and it was becoming rickety and we couldn’t find a good solution for repairing it, I struggled with ‘do we want a real one outside or one inside?’”
Rabbi Aaron Tendler, who teaches at Ner Israel Rabbinical College and Owings Mills Torah Center, sponsored North Oaks’ first real sukkah last year.
“I said to him, ‘Rabbi, in my wish-dream world, I’m sure somebody has a sukkah they can’t use anymore. I would love somebody to come put up a sukkah and then take it down and take it away,’” Polsky said. “I just don’t have any place to keep it. And last year it happened, it was the first year we had a real one.”
“Then a volunteer with the Villages at Woodholme across the street came over and did a program and we served some snacks and it was lovely,” she added. “We kept it up for the whole week.”
North Oaks residents are looking forward to Sukkot this year and their little sukkah, which has a home in the complex’s outdoor courtyard.
“It’s little, but it’s beautiful,” Polsky said.
At the Edward A. Myerberg Center, the senior center doesn’t have its own sukkah, said center executive director Gail Zuskin. But one of the two synagogues that shares its space, Chevrei Tzedek, erects a sukkah on the patio between the Myerberg Center and the adjacent four-story Weinberg Woods apartments.
“The sukkah is open to use by all. Some of our members are Weinberg residents and a number of other members are members of the Myerberg. We are a small synagogue, approximately 85 families and seniors form a high percentage of our membership,” said Chevrei Tzedek spiritual leader Rabbi Rory Katz. “We have a tradition of having the sukkah be built by families of kids who will be having a bar or bat mitzvah in the upcoming year, which means that seniors are not usually involved. It is a great initial bonding experience for these families who really solidify as a cohort over the course of the year.”
For Susan Lapin, this year is the first Sukkot since she and her husband, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, moved to an apartment in Ingram Manor, a four-story Tudor-style complex on Park Heights Avenue in Pikesville.
“This is our first Sukkot here and what we’re finding as we ask around is that most people share a sukkah with friends or family who own a house,” she said. “I did hear that the condos further down Park Heights do have a sukkah out back.”
According to Mitchell Posner, former CEO of CHAI, some residents of the Park Towers condo buildings have sukkahs and sukkahs can be spotted at other apartment complexes in the area.
“There are lots of garden apartment, or walk-up rental apartment complexes which accommodate sukkahs, such as Cross Country Manor Apartments or Ingram Manor,” he said.