Let’s talk a little bit about Sukkot, what I’m calling the “other” High Holiday. Although not fully celebrated as intensely as Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur by worldwide Jewry, Sukkot is a 9 day marathon (8 days in Israel) of a holiday that includes large meals, expensive traditions, and family trips. Almost any business can benefit from Sukkot yet the holiday is overshadowed by the “hugeness” of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur (like I said in the last post, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are the “Don’t Mess” holidays).
Here’s some broad strokes about the Sukkot holiday (excerpted from Wikipedia)
Sukkot (the Feast of Booths, Feast of Tabernacles) is a Biblical holiday celebrated around late September to late October. It is one of the three Biblically mandated Shalosh regalim on which Jews and Believers make pilgrimages to pre-determined sites to worship and make fellowship in the Temple in Jerusalem. The Holy Week lasts seven days, including Chol Hamoed and is immediately followed by another festive day known as Shemini Atzeret. The Hebrew word sukkōt is the plural of sukkah, “booth or tabernacle”, which is a walled structure covered with flora, such as tree branches or bamboo shoots. The sukkah is intended as a reminiscence of the type of fragile dwellings in which the ancient Israelites dwelt during their 40 years of wandering in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt.
Throughout the holiday the sukkah becomes the primary living area of one’s home. All meals are eaten inside the sukkah and many sleep there as well. On each day of the holiday, members of the household recite a blessing over the lulav and etrog, or Four species. According to Zechariah, in the messianic era Sukkot will become a universal festival and all nations will make pilgrimages annually to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast there.
The second through seventh days of Sukkot (third through seventh days outside Israel) are called Chol HaMoed (lit. “festival weekdays”). These days are considered by halakha to be more than regular weekdays but less than festival days. Observant Jews typically treat Chol HaMoed as a vacation period, eating nicer than usual meals in their sukkah, entertaining guests, visiting other families in their sukkot, and taking family outings. Many synagogues and Jewish centers also offer events and meals in their sukkot during this time to foster community and goodwill.
How to Benefit from Sukkot
Let’s talk about this big Sukkot holiday and how you can best benefit from it’s long span of celebration (I’m omitting the usual benefits for food and wines because these beneficial options are always synonymous with Jewish holidays):
The End of the High Holidays
In the Rosh Hashana post, I explored the aspect of not simply thinking holiday to holiday, but instead think of the ENTIRE High Holiday season (Check it out here). Sukkot is the end of the High Holiday season yet ends with quite a bang! Retailers, wines, foods, and apparel can benefit all month from this holiday season and the holiday season can help boost 3rd quarter sales for your business.
The Sukkah – A Man’s Job
When I grew up, my family used to go down to Home Depot and buy wood panels and nails, piece them together and build a handmade Sukkah (ours was designed with a retractable roof as well!) This holiday is the rare time for the “hands-on” Jewish man to take the spotlight. Lumber yards, Home Depot/Lowe’s, outdoor accesory stores, and party supplies are all businesses that stand to benefit from the “Jewish man’s holiday” of Sukkot. Granted, many Jewish families take the easier way of assembling a pre-fabricated Sukkah from SukkahDepot.com or Sukkah Outlet, but there’s still work that needs to be done to assemble the entire tabernacle. And Synagogues and Jewish Centers need larger, custom-made Sukkot that require a lot of wood,nails, bamboo stalks, and love to set up!
Chol Hamoed – A Vacation in a Vacation
As shown above, Chol Hamoed is the middle 4-5 days of Sukkot and are essentially a vacation in a vacation. Jewish schools are usually off for the entire Sukkot holiday and the restrictions on driving or using money are lifted on Chol Hamoed. What that means is plenty of free time and plenty of money to spend on day trips. Just ask the Bronx Zoo, Chelsea Piers, and the Long Island Childrens Museum about the huge influx of Jewish families during these few days and their sheer numbers of Jewish attendee’s should be enough to inspire you to promote your location as a great Chol Hamoed destination.
When marketing to the Jewish community for Chol Hamoed though, remember that you need to find the perfect timing between when the Jewish market is done focusing on Yom Kippur and starts focusing on Sukkot. Find out the Jewish media’s advertising schedule and ask for suggested dates (I would suggest advertising the week of Yom Kippur and the first week after) for running print, web, or email advertising. Promoting too early for Chol Hamoed may have your message overlooked, and promoting too late may mean parents have booked up their schedule already. But one thing to keep in mind is this:
Have Sukkah, will travel
Even though the middle days of Sukkot are full of travel and adventure, don’t forget that it’s still Sukkot. And Sukkot is a holiday that requires people to sit in the sukkah when eating meals. If you have the space to build a temporary Sukkah on your premises, do it! If Jewish families are deciding between a destination with a Sukkah versus one without a Sukkah, the choice is quite obvious – the Sukkah friendly destination saves families time, energy, and hassle having to find a place to eat. Yes, a Sukkah for only a few days could be an expensive purchase (on SukkahDepot.com, a 12 x 20 Sukkah costs about $1200) but think about the increased traffic you’ll have at your location in the middle of a normally slow school week.
Now, you don’t need a Sukkah that can fit thousands nor do you need to offer Kosher food as well. But you should be aware that there will be a NEED that exists for a Sukkah and try your best to fulfill that need. Bring in a Jewish consultant (like us!) to see how a Sukkah can be constructed efficiently and correctly. You may even have an existing structure outside (such as a trellis) that can already accomodate a Sukkah (just add foliage), which would be a happy coincidence! I would also suggest pairing up with a local Kosher restaurant (who will build a Sukkah anyway) to see how you can partner to increase traffic for each other during Chol Hamoed – perhaps a discount at NYC Midtown’s J2 for those heading to Ripley’s Believe It or Not since J2 has a Sukkah. Explore your options and, as I said in an older post for event planners, know your Jewish radius that exists all around you! And bottom line, if your location offers a Sukkah, then the Jewish market see’s that you just “get them”. You understand our needs and we’ll be loyal to businesses that understand us.
The End of Sukkot – Simchat Torah
The end of Sukkot is called Simchat Torah, which is essentially a celebration of the finishing and the re-beginning of the Torah reading. And the holiday is accompanied by singing, dancing, drinking, and revelry. Because of the erratic scheduling and celebrations of these last days, many Synagogues hold elaborate luncheons for their congregants. Caterers, party accessories, and decorators – take note! This is a great way to showcase your food and services for large Jewish communities outside of their typical social and non-profit events.
Who celebrates Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur? EVERYONE. Who celebrates Sukkot? Most people.
Know that difference. Everyone is in synagogue for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, even Larry David! Not everyone is celebrating Sukkot, which is why businesses, synagogues, and individuals place such a strong focus on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a total of three days, over Sukkot, a nine day holiday.
The reason is primarily due to the fact that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are considered the two “Don’t Mess” holidays. Passover is 8 days, Sukkot is 9, Hanukkah is 8 as well – these are long holidays and some people can’t keep every holiday to the end. In fact, many people will be working during Sukkot, especially during the Chol Hamoed days, so for those serving the Jewish worker (such as NYC restaurants), be prepared to offer some amenities for Sukkot.
The Post-High Holidays Workout
Like December’s New Years, a month long holiday season of food, wine, revelry, and celebration is the perfect excuse to hit the gym. Gym memberships and personal training are great services to offer as Sukkot starts winding down. For gyms and fitness centers located in heavily populated Jewish areas, you should consider sponsoring the local Jewish school’s basketball team since the season doesn’t start until after Sukkot and it’s a great tie in for fitness for all ages. If you haven’t started reaching the Jewish market and are curious to try it, try sending a Jdeal.com or Kosher Kouponz offer (the Jewish Groupon-style businesses).
So that’s the holiday of Sukkot. Much more than just people waving palm branches while sitting in huts in their backyard. And for the smart business, it could mean MUCH more to your bottom line if you position your business to market effectively. I hope this helps de-mystify the Jewish holiday of Sukkot and helps you target the Jewish market in a successful way for this reflective holiday. Have a great Sukkot!