Mobile Sukkah Visits Special Needs Kids to Celebrate Sukkot

By Heather Fordham, New Jersey News Network

For families like the Gendels, celebrating holidays already poses its own challenges, especially during the global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. 

The Gendel family thought they’d have to forego this year’s Sukkot celebration, but Friendship Circle, an organization that helps raise awareness and understanding for those with special needs, made this year’s Sukkot extra special. 

“For many years, we did build our own sukkah, but things got a little crazy over the last couple of years medically, so we had to forego building our own sukkah,” Erica Gendel said. “And this is really special because during the pandemic we can’t go to other people’s houses; we can’t go to our synagogue. We are working hard to keep our heads up like everyone else.”

Sukkot, is known to be the most joyous of the Jewish Holidays. A tradition of the holiday is to eat and celebrate with friends and family in a “sukkah” or a hut. 

But with the pandemic, the Friendship Circle’s Sukkot celebration was canceled. 

Instead, the organization is are bringing a mobile sukkah to the homes of special needs children like Erica’s son, Joshua, as well as immunocompromised individuals and homebound seniors. 

“The opportunity to bring the sukkah to people’s homes to make them feel part of the community was really important,” Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum, CEO at Friendship Circle, said. 

Over the holiday, FC staff‑-including Grossbaum and Rabbi Yisroel Rosenblum, who runs the Living Legacy programs—made more than 100 stops to homes with the mobile sukkah. 

Masks are required, and individually wrapped snacks are passed out to families. 

“Bringing the joy and seeing the joy on their face is so meaningful,” Grossbaum said. 

For Joshua, who is wheelchair-bound, an accessible sukkah was set up on the ground for his family to roll him into. 

Joshua, who is now 21, has been a part of Friendship Circle for 19 years. 

“It’s tough to get him out,” Joshua’s father, Steven, explained. “Even getting him out here, the amount of medical equipment we have to bring out, requires a lot of work, so building a sukkah is not something we could partake in this year.”

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