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Creating a sukkah tour

NEW YORK, Sept. 22 (JTA) — A sukkah tour is a great way to mark Sukkot and make celebrating the harvest festival a truly communal experience. Here’s how to organize a sukkah tour: • Through your synagogue or JCC, select a chairperson to organize your sukkah tour. Ask volunteers to help. • Find at least three families willing to build a sukkah and invite visitors to their outdoor dwellings. For hosts who are new to sukkah construction, provide instructions on how to build a sukkah, and where to buy lulavs and etrogs. • Select a day to hold your sukkah tour, preferably a Saturday or Sunday during Sukkot. This affords a maximum number of people an opportunity to visit. • For the convenience of hosts, set hours for people to visit, preferably a time that doesn’t interfere with meals. The hours between 1:00 and 3:00 are recommended because it is still light enough and warm enough for people to appreciate the outdoors. • Advertise your sukkah tour through a synagogue or JCC bulletin, a mailing, an e-mail announcement and/or strategically placed posters. To attract additional interest, talk enthusiastically about this upcoming event at meetings you attend and to family and friends. • Design, print and distribute maps indicating the location and addresses of hosts’ houses. For clarity, assign each house on the map a number. Consider printing maps on colored paper. • For extra flourish, write descriptions of each sukkah, poetically wording their distinguishing characteristics: “A bowl of etrogs fills the air with a tropical citrus scent,” or “attached to a stone cottage, this sukkah exudes a rustic look.” Assign each description the same number as its corresponding home on the site map. Print these descriptions on attractive paper and distribute with maps. • Ask volunteers to bake, buy or donate pastries, snacks, coffee, juices and seltzer to the sukkah hosts to offset some of their expenses. • Make sure that there’s ample parking at each host’s house, or, if not, advise visitors on where to park. Provide van service for seniors, youth groups or children whose parents are unavailable to drive them. • To get press coverage, notify local newspapers, especially Jewish newspapers. Send photos to publications to encourage them to run an article about your sukkah tour. • Take pictures of each sukkah, its hosts, and milling visitors. Place photos in an album and indicate the day and year of the tour. It’s a lovely memento of the occasion and an artifact of the organization’s history, especially if the sukkah tour becomes an annual event. • Thank hosts personally and/or write them a letter. This small gesture will encourage them to participate again. • To be ready in time for next year, start planning your sukkah tour now.