Sukkah at the Jewish Museum
San Francisco, CA
Competition winner to design and build a sukkah as part of the Museum’s Invitational exhibition series, upon the museum’s opening. Completed in 1984.
Even though it is, by definition, impermanent, the sukkah must withstand wind and rain during its annual exposure on a San Francisco rooftop. Saitowitz incorporated four existing lampposts as structural anchors, to which 8-in.-diameter columns are bound with metal straps. Screws connect joist hangers and sheet-metal brackets for simple assembly and dismantling of the timber frame, which is hoisted onto the roof deck. Canvas panels lashed to the uprights lend shelter from the breeze (a special concern when Sabbath candles are alight inside) and allude to the tents of nomadic forebears. Ropes stretched over the roof star carry the sechach, or canopy of foliage. As many as 20 visitors can fit around the central table at holiday parties and study groups. Hailing the sukkah as “a living symbol of what our tradition is about,” Helaine Fortgang of the Jewish Community Museum explains the building’s festive purpose: “I want to engage people so that they say, ‘This is wonderful. Why don’t we in a simpler way build a sukkah at home?’