By Tina Kelley, NYTimes
It’s a prime tenet of New York City real estate that there just isn’t enough of it. And the city’s lack of space can have theological ramifications, when apartment dwellers don’t have room, say, for a full-size Christmas tree or a sukkah, a temporary shelter used to celebrate the Jewish harvest festival, which started Monday evening and continues through this coming Monday evening, with some celebrations continuing on Tuesday.
So another tenet of city real estate kicks in: location, location, location. Which explains the popularity of the sukkah in Bryant Park, one of a handful of public huts where Jews eat and say blessings in during the festival, known as Sukkot. The shelters commemorate the 40 years Jews spent in makeshift dwellings while headed toward the Holy Land.
“We’re between Times Square, Penn Station and Grand Central, so we’re definitely one of the most visible sukkahs in the world,” said Rabbi Joshua Metzger of Chabad Lubavitch of Midtown Manhattan, who was presiding over the lunchtime guests on Thursday.
While a pianist serenaded the crowd with a sophisticated version of “Take the A Train,” nearly drowned out by renovation work on the west facade of the New York Public Library, dozens of people drifted in and out, stopping to say a blessing over the etrog, a citrus fruit, and the lulav, a palm frond, carrying pizza boxes, even the occasional bottle of amaretto. And all the local restaurants deliver here, the rabbi said.
Chaya Schwartz, 30, brought her daughter, Bookie, 8.
“It’s wonderful to see it in Bryant Park, when you see all the secular activities going on,” she said. “I was at Hannah Montana at 6 a.m. here with my daughter, and it’s nice to bring her here to celebrate the Jewish holiday.”
Ms. Schwartz works in real estate, and many other visitors were in banking or other financial services.
“In tough times, whether it’s the economy or politics, with the war and the election, I think people are searching for something more deep and spiritual,” she said, adding that she wouldn’t be surprised if more people came this year than in the past dozen years the shelters have appeared in the park.
“It’s part of our heritage, and reminds us of our home in Israel,” said Nurit Leiderman, who gave her profession as “a banker, still.” She brought her friend, Stephanie Wong, who is not Jewish, to the sukkah — the holiday’s traditions include welcoming outsiders and celebrating unity. “It’s part of the nice things about Sukkot — you can bring people and show them about your traditions,” Ms. Leiderman said.
Besides, living as she does in a small apartment on the Lower East Side, “I can’t really spare a place for my shoes, let alone a sukkah,” she said.
Other Sukkot celebrations have been planned for the week, including Sushi in the Sukkah, Jazz in the Sukkah, and Pizza in the Hut. Chabad’s Web site provides a Sukkot search, where shelters can be found in 333 cities in 23 countries. The group also sponsors two 48-foot trailers carrying mobile sukkahs throughout Manhattan.
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