With temporary huts of all shapes and sizes dotting landscapes across the globe, passing motorists and pedestrians in the know can tell that the Jewish world is celebrating the holiday of Sukkot. Two of the largest and most visible sukkahs – while each hut can have walls made out of pretty much any material, it’s the natural, permeable roof, that is key – can be found in the downtown metropolises of New York City and London, beckoning residents, commuters and tourists alike to come inside and make a special blessing.

Run by Chabad-Lubavitch of Midtown Manhattan and Chabad-Lubavitch of London, respectively, each hut stands right in the middle of town. In London’s case, the wooden structure measure more than 500 square feet, taking up a part of the bustling New Street Square between Fleet Street and Chancery Lane.

On Wednesday, more than 200 people enjoyed a lunch in the London sukkah sponsored by Deloitte and a bevy of other supporting firms, including Bolt Partners, Freshfields, Bruckhaus Deringer, Mishcon De Reya, Speechly Bircham, and Taylor Wessing. Later that evening, Chabad-Lubavitch of London hosted a kosher wine tasting event with guests sampling vintage wines from the S. Emilion and Bordeaux regions of France with a trained sommelier.

“It is amazing to see so many Jews coming together to unite for this project,” commented Chabad-Lubavitch UK chief executive officer Rabbi Bentzi Sudak.

Across the pond, the Midtown sukkah measured in at 20 by 40 feet at New York City’s Bryant Park.

“It’s packed,” Rabbi Joshua Metzger said on Friday just before the lunch crowd picked up. “There are literally thousands of people here.”

Outside both locations, rabbinical students can be found at all hours of the day inviting people in and offering the chance to make a blessing on the Four Species, a palm branch, willow branches, myrtle twigs and citron that are held together each day of the holiday.

A Londoner makes a blessing on the Four Species inside of the sukkah operated by Chabad-Lubavitch of London.
A Londoner makes a blessing on the Four Species inside of the sukkah operated by Chabad-Lubavitch of London.

Metzger, who founded the Midtown Chabad 17 years ago, built his first sukkah in a parking lot. Since then, the city has been very accommodating, he said, allowing the current structure to be built behind the New York Public Library in the heart of the business district, equidistant between Grand Central Station, the Port Authority Bus Terminal and Penn Station.

“There were a lot of Israeli backpackers not necessarily looking for a sukkah, but just stumbling upon it,” he said of some of the visiters.

While some local kosher restaurants provide sukkahs for their patrons, the Bryant Park sukkah is available for anyone and everyone. Special programs for young professionals, families and schools have been taking place each day.

“The sukkah is a symbol of unity and Jewish pride at its best,” said Metzger, whose center recently purchased the nearby 12-story building that houses its landmark second-floor location at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.

Back in London, Sudak is thrilled with the impressive turnout for the sukkah’s second year.

Stated the rabbi: “We hope this will be a catalyst for making Judaism more accessible.”

For more information about the holiday of Sukkot, or to find celebrations in your area, click here.