Hundreds of visitors from as far away as Bergen County, Lakewood, and Brooklyn descended on Randolph last week to attend the inaugural “Sukkos 09.”
The eclectic holiday festival was held Oct. 5-8 during hol hamo’ed, the intermediate days of the holiday. Yeshivas are generally closed and travel and leisure activities are permitted during those days, so observant families often take to the road seeking ways to entertain their children.
Seizing the opportunity, Moshe and Sarah Morgenstern of Morris Township joined with the Rabbinical College of America in Morristown to launch Sukkos 09. The Morgensterns were the founders more than three decades ago of the Jewish Renaissance Fair, held each year on Labor Day in West Orange.
“Randolph meets Boro Park” was what Moshe Morgenstern, an IT consultant specializing in document management systems, dubbed the four-day Sukkos 09, which, he said, spared families the expense of visiting attractions like Great Adventure or Hershey Park, which offer their own Sukkot programs. The festival, he said, also provided a “healthier,” more controlled environment than that of a large theme park. He said between 750 and 1,000 tickets a day had been sold for the festival last Monday and Tuesday alone.
Participants could buy glatt kosher food and snacks at a sukka set up on the grounds of Mount Freedom Golf. Private indoor activity centers throughout Randolph opened their doors to festival-goers, for $6 a ticket per venue. Twice-daily minyanim were also held at the Chabad of Randolph.
Special guests included a group of Jewish orphans from a Chabad orphanage in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, whose trip to New York for the fall holidays was sponsored by a philanthropist; the entertainment centers welcomed them free of charge for Sukkos 09. “We just try to give them a good time,” said rabbinical student Mendel Eichenblatt of Los Angeles, who accompanied the youngsters. “Kids are seeing that there’s a better world out there.”
The aim of Sukkos 09, said Morgenstern, was to create a haimish atmosphere; to that end, hasidic music blared from loudspeakers at Pump It Up, an indoor gym with inflatable equipment. Efforts were also made to enable the fervently Orthodox to participate comfortably; at Pump It Up, for example, separate play rooms were designated for boys and girls. “It’s nice to be able to accommodate everybody who comes through,” said owner Eileen O’Dea.
Other attractions included the Randolph Climbing Center, Aspen Ice Arena, Grand Slam Batting Cages, and Mt. Freedom Golf.
Although the big winds last Wednesday wreaked havoc with the sukka schach — the stalks or branches that make up the sukka roof — and resulted in a somewhat diminished turnout, Morgenstern was optimistic for the rest of the week — and for next year.
“It will get better as time goes on,” Morgenstern said. “We’re looking forward to doing it again.”