Sukkah on the Roof in Brooklyn – 1957

By Reb Daniel Lev

Etrog

My uncle would bring this up every Fall as we munched on our post-Neila break-feast. Between bites of pickled herring and potato knishes, he’d tell us all about his struggle to keep his sukkah. He recounted, once again, that, “like a good Jew,” he always built his sukkah on the roof of his apartment building. He was quite proud of it and could hardly wait to celebrate the holiday with a little feast-ele’ and lots of singing. But in 1957, his new neighbor, a Jew in fact, complained to the building Superintendent that the sukkah was a fire hazard and should be taken down.

The Super, a good Jew and a buddy of my uncle, ignored him. So the neighbor went to court and got a court date on the third day of Chol ha-moed Sukkot. My uncle had to go. Still, we had a raucous good time for the first two nights of the holiday, singing, eating and playing around with my uncle and our sizable families. A couple days later the neighbor and my uncle faced Judge O’Hananhan. He heard the vitriolic attacks the neighbor made on my uncle – “how irresponsible he was,” and how the Super “was in cahoots” with my uncle, endangering the apartment building. When it was uncle’s turn, he just said that it was a religious ritual structure that would be down in several days after the holiday passed. The judge was silent for a few moments. Then, with the lightest hint of a verbal eye-wink, he pronounced the following ruling: “You, Mr. Rosenbloom, must know that your neighbor is correct – the structure is a potential fire hazard and you should have had local fire officials inspect it for safety. It is therefore in my judgement that you should take this “sukkah” down within the next seven days.” Every time my uncle told this story he gleefully barked out a laugh and said: “So boychik, I got to keep it up ‘till the holiday ended! And from that day forward I always got permit from the fire house down the street.” The fire captain was his high school mate.

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