On Erev Sukkot, my neighbor, sent me an email.
Hi. I’m Binyamin Yablok ... We have an unusual sukkah with hand painted decorations which might interest your readers. It’s worth a couple of photos and explanation…
Rabbi Yablock and his wife, Aviva, have devoted their lives to Jewish education. He is the Assistant Principal at Manhattan Day School, and Aviva is the director of the school’s Early Childhood Program, and are long-time Teaneck residents.
Intrigued, I quickly promised to visit on Chol Hamoed and got there last Sunday, just before the sukkah was set to be taken down. I was bowled over by what I saw.
When I walked into the Yablok backyard, I was greeted by a distinctly old and brown high-walled wood sukkah. Rabbi Yablok said it was built in 1962 in Seattle by Aviva’s father. They started using it in Seattle in 1978 and have taken it with them on all of their career travels. There aren’t too many 60-year old well-traveled sukkot in Teaneck, I am sure.
The sukkah was simply beautiful. On nearly every stained wood panel were hand painted pesukim and images that took decades for Rabbi Yablok to do by his own hand. After staining the walls dark brown, Rabbi Yablok decided to make the walls more interesting by painting the text of the Ushpizin and Kiddush on them. Then he began to paint subject related to his family’s history.
On one panel depicts a map of the world tracing the journeys his and Aviva’s respective families took after the Shoah from Europe through Shanghai and Ohio, Seattle, Scranton until they finally landed in Teaneck.
One panel was clearly most dear and beloved to the Yabloks. On the panel next to the door was a family “cluster” (not a family tree, he explained) which depicted the entire growing Yablok clan. A proud grandfather, he noted that he made two new additions to the wall this year.
I was inspired and will never take sukkah decorations for granted ever again.
By Moshe Kinderlehrer