Every year, Rabbi Yochanan Posner of Lubavitch Chabad of Skokie spends the Sukkot holiday behind the wheel of an SUV, lugging an oversized trailer with wooden cartoon-covered walls topped by evergreen branches.
Posner explains that each of his two trailers bears a sukkah, the hut in which Jews eat, drink, socialize, and even sleep during the weeklong Sukkot harvest festival every fall. Being in the sukkah with only flimsy foliage above helps bring awareness of man’s vulnerability and close relationship with nature.
Putting sukkahs on pickup trucks to bring the holiday joy to people who do not have booths of their own has been a Chicago area staple for close to thirty years and a Skokie fixture since 1991. However, he says his trailer sukkahs are unique for two reasons: “First of all, they are much bigger. We can seat parties of close to twenty people around folding tables in the larger sukkah trailer at once. Also, trailers are low enough for the elderly and handicapped to get on to with just a little help. This is important, because many of my regulars whom I visit every year would not be able to get onto the back of a pickup.”
One such regular is Mark Greenfield, whom Posner visits every year at his print shop on the corner of Niles Center Road and Maine Street. “It’s wonderful when Rabbi Posner parks the sukkah in our lot every year. We hug each other and then we go out to the sukkah for a quick bite to eat. It’s a warm experience for me.”
“I grew up in West Rogers Park, and I was always aware of the holiday of Sukkot and even visited the synagogue sukkah when I was a kid, but I never had one of my own, so it’s really special that the sukkah comes to me these days. Look, you can’t beat curbside service—it puts a smile on my face.”
For others, the sukkah serves a more practical purpose. According to Jewish law, for the duration of the seven-day holiday all meals must be eaten in the sukkah. Posner says that, in 1999, the needs of observant business people prompted him to place a sukkah in the Park of Civic Pride on the corner of Lincoln and Oakton in downtown Skokie, so that people working in the area could go for lunch. The sukkah also serves as an educational exhibit for passersby, as it is decorated it with colorful signs and information about the sukkah and other holiday facts.
When designing his newest and largest trailer Sukkah in 2009, Posner decided the time had come to add some personality to his fleet. “Until then, we had built the walls with wooden paneling, which is pretty but not really attention-grabbing,” explains Posner. “So I enlisted the help of artist and humorist David Sokoloff to create some whimsical pictures and text to paint on the sides.
“David’s cartoons were so attractive that we decided to redo our downtown Sukkah as well, plastering it with bubble text and funny pictures—humor is a great medium to teach things that people would otherwise not bother learning.”
The story came full circle for Posner when he opened up an old family album dating back to the early 1980’s when his family lived in Kansas City. “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I found a picture of an old trailer sukkah that my father had built and David Sokoloff [who also lived in Kansas City at the time] had illustrated in 1982. Here we are doing it again, thirty years later.”
There will be a volunteer attendant on hand to welcome visitors and answer questions at the Sukkah of Civic Pride, located in the Park of Civic Pride on the southeast corner of Oakton and Lincoln, daily September 22 through 25 for several hours at mid-day. To book a visit at your home or office or for a friend, please contact Lubavitch Chabad of at 847 677 1770 or by emailing email@example.com.