OCTOBER 5, 2017 – If there is a Super Bowl of all things Sukkot in New England, it occurs on the Sunday before the holiday begins at the Israel Book Shop in Brookline. On these days, people converge from all over the region. One by one they trudge downstairs into the basement of the book store –some with beards, large black yarmulkes and tzitzit, and others bare headed. Most are in search of a lulav and etrog – a palm tree frond and a shiny yellow citron that are held together and waved seven times after reciting blessings in a sukkah.
Amid the chaos in the basement, where men and women lined up to carefully inspect the lulavs and etrogs, Edith Dovek, the store’s owner and manager, tried to satisfy everyone’s specific request. She sat at a small table greeting people, alternately jumping up and disappearing to get a lulav or an etrog.
“How are you?” a woman asked Dovek.
“Surviving,” she replied.
In a long narrow bunker, adjacent to the main basement room, a cadre of eight young Israeli men sat near a buzzing dehumidifier at long picnic tables and formed an assembly team to put together the lulavs, which each require a palm frond, a V-shaped lulav-leaf holder (known in Yiddish as a koishekl), three myrtle branches and two slender willows.
As they were in the middle of fashioning 500 lulavs, Dovek entered the room, and called out another special order. “I need six lulavim that are bound and I need a roll of string,” she said.
Back in the main room, David Nathan, of Swampscott, was examining etrogs with his wife Hela, and his triplet two-year-old girls, Shira, Adina and Emunah. Nathan, who eats all of his meals in the sukkah and spends as much time in the hut as he can during the holiday, said Sukkot is one of his favorite times of the year. “There’s community, spirituality and family,” he said. “It’s different from the rest of the year. It’s an amazing holiday.”