Recycled Sukkah

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Old doors lend extra meaning to the holiday.

In the sukkah: Sarah and Benji Rosenzweig with Ellah, 2½, and Na’amah, 4.
In the sukkah: Sarah and Benji Rosenzweig with Ellah, 2½, and Na’amah, 4.

Sukkot is by far my favorite holiday; it’s a chance to get creative and build something — whether using traditional wooden panels or the new prefab sukkot kits. Either way, it’s always fun for me to assemble the sukkah.

Then there are the decorations. Every sukkah is different; each is unique and shows a little insight into the family that built it. Hand-drawn art projects, construction paper chains, pictures of rabbis or Israel embrace you each time you enter a new sukkah.

Some of my fondest memories took place in sukkahs. Growing up in Windsor, my parents always invited more people over than we had room for, yet somehow everyone had enough food. One meal in particular was so cramped that my sister Miryam and I (along with a couple of other family friends) actually ate our meals outside the door of the sukkah because there was just no more room.

Another great memory took place on the other side of the world. In 2000, I was in a rooftop sukkah in the Old City of Jerusalem and could hear families from multiple different Sukkot gatherings singing together — it was a special moment.

This year, my wife and I are finally living in a house (not an apartment), and we and our two girls have the opportunity to build a sukkah for the first time. I had been thinking about Sukkot since we moved in February. What does a sukkah represent to me? Should I go old school and build one with wood panels like my grandfather did? Nope, too vanilla for me. Should I get the PVC or metal pipes and have a prefab canvas sukkah? Nope, those never did it for me. So, what was I going to do?

Over the past year, I started getting fresh food from a friend’s farm in Detroit’s Brightmoor neighborhood. I told him I have always wanted to compost. The idea of giving back to the land is important to me. He said I could bring the scraps and peels to his house, and we would feed the compost to his chickens. Now this has become part of our family routine. I take my daughters to his farm every couple of weeks to feed the chickens and check out what new things are happening there.

Natural And Organic
It occurred to me at the beginning of the summer that the sukkah is supposed to be made from a natural material. This falls right in line with the natural and organic life I am trying to live. Shouldn’t my sukkah be some sort of recycled or repurposed sukkah?

It took a few weeks of evaluating materials to come up with the right choice. Wooden 2x4s are too heavy, and it would be too difficult to make a sukkah out of them. Pallets are too breezy. Bales of hay smell funky. Then I realized there are tons of old doors out there I could use.

The Rosenzweig family built its first sukkah from recycled doors.
The Rosenzweig family built its first sukkah from recycled doors.

I posted on Facebook and asked people if they had any extra doors with character that I could have. I got about half the doors I needed from that post. My friend Danny and I garbage picked (“urban mined”) a couple of doors from the curb. Finally, a client of mine, Jim Jenkins of Jenkins Construction, gave me a bunch of doors from a demolition site. I had just enough material to put up the sukkah with the help of a slew of friends from The Shul.

My girls absolutely love the sukkah and its uniqueness. We will swap some of the doors out over the years, but we will have this sukkah for years to come. 

By Benji Rosenzweig, Special to the Jewish News

 

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