A family’s pre-war wooden Sukkah in Płock, Poland has been saved and will be preserved restored, and displayed as a museum exhibit in Warsaw.
Krzysztof Bielawski reports on Virtual Shtetl that Poland’s State Ethnographic Museum is rescuing the wooden structure, which was attached to an upper floor of the tenement building at 18a Królewiecka St. “The non-protected wood was rotting, with wild pigeons nesting inside,” he writes.
The Museum began dismantling the Sukkah on February 21.
In 2014, Płock social activists made appeals to protect the sukkah. Unfortunately, they failed to obtain funds for renovation.
The director of the State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw, Adam Czyżewski, got interested in the decaying sukkah last autumn. He agreed with the building’s owner and the conservation officer that the sukkah would be moved to the Ethnographic Museum where after conservation it would become part of its permanent exhibition.
Before World War II it was not uncommon for Jewish homes to include a specially built structure, or include a room, that could be opened to the sky and be used as a sukkah — the booth where Jews eat during the autumn Sukkoth holiday. An untold number of them have survived in Poland and other countries.
Sukkoth, the “festival of booths,” lasts a week and comes after the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). It is both a harvest festival and a commemoration of the years Jews spent wandering in the desert in Biblical times. Jews traditionally build temporary sukkahs, or sheds that recall the wandering period. These are often decorated with fruits and vegetables celebrating the harvest.
The new branch of the Franconia Jewish Museum in Schwabach, Germany, for example, is located in a former Jewish home that includes a Sukkah with evocative wall paintings.