If you've traveled to Main Street in Kew Gardens Hills last week, you probably noticed several tents in front of some popular kosher eateries like Dougie’s Grill at 73-27 Main Street or the Kosher Corner, located at 73-01 Main Street. This fun and creative holiday, Sukkot, has families around the world traveling everywhere from Queens to California.
Since this is a holiday that brings the inside out (we eat all of our meals in the Sukkah), that is what people like to do. Why all of this outside activity? The history behind this holiday is to remember that the children of Israel wandered through the desert for a forty-year period. I just turned 41 and that feels like forever. The children of Israel survived these years by living in temporary “huts” (sukkahs) pronounced Sue-Kahs. It is because of this celebration that sukkahs have popped up in heavily populated Jewish areas around the world.
During the holiday of Sukkot, Jewish schools are closed. In some places, entire offices are shut down for eight days. It is during this time that families travel anywhere and everywhere. There are vacation packages as far as Jerusalem or as near as Randolph, New Jersey. There are a lot of great resources online that help families find things to do without breaking the bank. I found this guide to be most helpful in the New York area. Not far from our home, and not hard on the budget, is the Queens Zoo. We went their and everything worked out perfectly, and I have my very professional and mother of five to thank for this. When my two year old almost climbed over the fence to hug the goats, she was there. When my one year old put his bottle back in his mouth after it had dropped on the ground, she was there.
In order to keep this visit to the zoo affordable, bring your own food and drinks. She brought a bagel with cream cheese and red pepper, water bottles, animal cookies, and cucumbers. Those cookies really saved the day when my two year old would not part from the barnyard. I brought juice boxes, whole wheat crackers, and cheese. No matter what I bring, my kids always end up eating what the other kids have in their bags. A special thanks to the moms that have this in mind when they pack their food. Speaking of food, all of the kids loved feeding the sheep, llamas, and goats. You can buy a hand full of grain for .fifty cents, just make sure you have quarters because the machine is not sophisticated enough to take nickels and dimes. If you don’t have any change whatsoever, the animals will eat leaves as well. There are some other fun activities to enjoy while at the zoo. Our kids ran round a bit at the Migration Playground. It was a bit too advanced for my one year old because it is high up and there are open areas where he could fall. He knows I get scared when he tries to go down that way, he already has a sense of humor. It was hard to pull the kids away from the playground, this is where the juice boxes and cookies also came in handy.
On our way out, we treated the kids to a ride on the carousel. Originally installed here for the 1964 World’s Fair, this turn-of-the-last-century wood merry-go-round with 64 “jumping” horses (some with flying manes and tails), seven standing horses, a lion and two stand-alone chariots had my kids in awe. This ride is a piece of Jewish history, who would have known? The beautiful wood carvings were created by Lithuanian-born Jewish carver Marcus Charles Illions. He not only created carvings for carousel figures during the early the late 1800s and early 1900s, but he also was known to have created four sets of Ark lions for Brooklyn synagogues. As I found out more information about the history of the carousel, more Jewish names came up; Solomon Stein, Harry Goldstein, and Charles Carmel. These Russian Jewish immigrants used their skills from carving Torah Arks and channeled them into a trade that would provide food for their families in America. To see more images from the exhibition or to purchase a copy of the exhibition catalog, Gilded Lions And Jeweled Horses: The Synagogue to the Carousel, is also available at the American Folk Art Museum. Or call 212-265-1040 or www.folkartmuseum.org.
A more expensive and elaborate vacation is going on right now at the Disney Land Resort in Anaheim, California. Luxury kosher travel is a growing trend within the Orthodox Jewish community and greater demand has resulted in a wide array of organized tours to destinations around the globe.
For its upcoming tour, Pure Tiyulim.com has chosen the Disneyland Resort in Southern California as its venue to deliver a complete Sukkot experience, including accommodations at a luxury resort, gourmet glatt kosher cuisine, a huge sukkah built on the Disneyland Resort Dream Lawn, a discounted rate on tickets to the Disneyland park, and two performances by Jewish musical superstar Lipa Schmeltzer. A portion of the proceeds from the concerts will benefit Chai Lifeline, the international children’s health support organization. Chai Lifeline’s network of two-dozen free programs and services provide emotional, social, and financial support to more than 3,400 children with cancer or other life-threatening illnesses or debilitating chronic conditions, their families, and communities.
Check out Main Street in Kew Gardens Hills this week and you too can enjoy the festivities of Sukkot.