It's a new twist on an old tradition

Ashland rabbi pedals his bicycle-powered Sukkah around the city to honor Sukkot, a Jewish holiday
Rabbi Avi Zwiebel of the Chabad Jewish Center pedals his bicycle-powered Sukkah on the streets of Ashland in celebration of the Jewish holiday Sukkot. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell photoBob Pennell

ASHLAND — Rabbi Avi Zwiebel has resorted to pedal power to make the Jewish holiday of Sukkot more accessible and green.

Since the holiday began Sept. 18, Zwiebel, of the Chabad Jewish Center, has taken his bicycle-powered Sukkah to the downtown area and near the Ashland Food Co-op, among other locations in town.

The holiday of Sukkot continues until nightfall Wednesday. It celebrates the shelter the Jewish people were provided during their 40-year exodus from Egypt. The bicycle-towed Sukkah represents that shelter.

"We do all our eating and all our celebrating in this temporary hut called a Sukkah," Zwiebel said. "We sit in this temporary hut for seven days."

Zwiebel explained that traditionally Sukkahs are in a fixed location, although people have fashioned traveling Sukkahs before, usually on the backs of motor vehicles.

A bicycle Sukkah, however, is a novelty, he said.

"A bike is really a new idea, and we thought it was fitting in the spirit of Ashland," Zwiebel said. "To have it on a bike, that's unusual."

Zwiebel plans visits to pedal his way to senior centers in order to reach the faithful who may not otherwise have a chance to participate in the holiday.

"A lot of these are home-bound, and don't get the chance to celebrate," Zwiebel said.

He said the inspiration for a pedal-powered Sukkah came in part from the travelling Sukkah the center built last year on the back of a pickup truck, as well as from ideas he'd seen on the Internet. It was built by Steven Marrow of O'Handys with Chabad's help.

"It just has to be done a certain way," Zwiebel said.

He said a travelling Sukkah can be a powerful sight.

"Yesterday, I visited a woman from New York," Zwiebel said. " She hadn't seen a Sukkah in 50 years and it brought tears to her eyes."

Transporting the wooden structure can be challenging, Zwiebel said.

"It's a big workout sometimes going up the hills," he said. "Downtown is not too bad, but if I start going up the hill it can be a little challenging."

But to Zwiebel the workout serves as a way to sustainably keep a tradition.

"It's part of Judaism to be conscious of the environment," he said. "It's wonderful to have this ancient and long-standing tradition in an environmentally friendly way."

Reach newsroom assistant Nick Morgan at

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