Home Depot teaching class on sukkah-building

In addition to the “clinics” on tiling, window decorating, and installing a new floor, the East Palo Alto branch of Home Depot is offering a unique workshop Sept. 26: how to build a sukkah.

The clinic is being taught by Home Depot kitchen designer Maryjane Ichelson, who also happens to be a member of Redwood City’s Congregation Beth Jacob since childhood — she had her bat mitzvah there — and a reservist in the U.S. Army.

“I’m a good shopper here, so I thought, ‘Why not work here?'” said Ichelson. “They honor Shabbat as an employee, and allow me to go home before sundown.”

Ichelson said it was actually the store’s manager, John Cunningham, who came up with the idea to do a sukkah-building clinic. “He’s Jewish by injection — his wife is Jewish,” Ichelson explained. “He asked me if I would put it together for him, and he let me go and run with it.”

While several Home Depot stores around the country have offered this clinic in the past, this is the first one to be offered in the Bay Area.

Ichelson said that while most Home Depot associates may not know the meaning of Sukkot, which begins the evening of Sept. 29, they are familiar with customers coming in at this time of year, wanting to build temporary dwellings in their backyards.

“Most don’t understand what it’s for, but when you give them the dimensions, what you need and the materials, they’re 100 percent helpful,” said Ichelson. “If people have something they downloaded off the Internet and want to reproduce it, we assist in whatever way we can.”

Construction-wise, that is. Not decorating-wise.

“We don’t carry palm fronds, and we don’t have lulavs and etrogs, yet,” she joked. “But someday I can see it.”

Ichelson called herself a “seasoned sukkah-builder,” in that she’s tried to build one every year, regardless of where she happens to be stationed.

Ichelson recommends using either PVC (polyvinyl chloride), a form of plastic tubing that is not only easy to put up and take down, but takes up the same amount of space as golf clubs to store. Lumber of course, works as well. For the roof, Ichelson recommends anything from a screen to lattice to bamboo, which can also be used for the sides.

“All I can tell people is the more creative, the better,” she said.

The sukkah that Icherson builds at the clinic will remain in the Home Depot parking lot throughout the festival. The handout she’s created is for one style of sukkah, and people can go on a sort of scavenger hunt through the store, looking for the right materials.

When asked how she likes to decorate her own sukkah, Ichelson said, “I like it with fruit and leaves and grapevines. I always like to put blinking lights on it, but not so bright that I can’t see the stars.”

Maryjane Ichelson’s sukkah-building clinic will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 26, at Home Depot, 1781 E. Bayshore Rd., East Palo Alto. Information: (650) 462-6800.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."