Saturday, October 11, 2008

Building a Chinese Sukkah

How do you make a Chinese sukkah?

The answer- PVC pipes nested inside homemade cement bases, metal grating, shiny fabric, wire and a few wooden 2x4s to keep the whole thing together.

For our inaugural month, we at MH Beijing decided to join our city's construction craze by building a sukkah on our rooftop.

When we went to buy materials at the builders' market-- this was not Home Depot-- we brought a handmade sketch and a Chinese friend with construction experience to bargain for us. Another friend who works at the Beijing Film Studio provided us with our sukkah walls, blue and green screen cloth used for special effects in movies.

Our three main challenges in building this sukkah:

1. Fitting everything we bought in the elevator/up the stairs.
2. Making sure it DOESN'T look like we are building anything substantive on the roof. Apartments across the way can see our roof, and a sukkah looks just as comfortable as some temporary quarters around the city where migrant workers sleep. Housing people on our rooftop or building an addition would not only raise suspicion, but is probably illegal. Our plan is to hang the cloth walls only when we are using the sukkah, and otherwise keep it bare, like some kind of terrace. That way the only thing the neighbors will think is "don't those silly foreigners know it's too cold to sit outside now?"
3. Securing it down (with cement, wire, 2x4) so it doesn't blow away. "Jewish ritual object kills innocent neighbors and fluffy bug-eyed dog"...not how we want to be remembered.

All the young people we have talked to in our community, whether they came to our first event (Yom Kippur break fast with over 20 people!) or are planning to come in the future, are super excited about our sukkah. Moishe House's sukkah is probably one of at most three sukkot in the entire city. Chabad and maybe the Israeli embassy are the only other places that will observe the holiday in an adorable little hut.

But I know that ours will be the only one made out of PVC pipes and blue screen.

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