Living luxuriously in a sukkah

Jerusalemite Avi Lazar’s Luxury Sukkahs International takes Sukkot to a new level.

The Diamond Edition sukkah comes in a variety of sizes. Panels can be up to 12 feet tall (photo credit: Courtesy)
The Diamond Edition sukkah comes in a variety of sizes. Panels can be up to 12 feet tall
(photo credit: Courtesy)
AVI LAZAR has reimagined sukkahs, the temporary shelters used by observant Jews during the weeklong festival of Sukkot.
A young man, with short brown hair, a broad smile and an entrepreneurial spirit, Lazar founded Luxury Sukkahs International in 2012. Since then, the Jerusalemite with has been designing and building extravagant shelters for people around the world, though mostly in the US and Canada.
This year, Sukkot begins on September 23, and Lazar is already contracted to build dozens of sukkahs.
The first sukkah is described in the Book of Vayikra (Leviticus) as a symbolic wilderness shelter, commemorating the time God provided for the Israelites in the wilderness that they inhabited after they were freed from slavery in Egypt. But Lazar’s sukkot, while built according to Jewish law, are not as described in the Torah.
“Our sukkah is beautiful,” says Daniel Gryfe from New York, who purchased a Crystal Edition sukkah from Lazar in 2015.
“The walls are all fiberglass and you can see into our backyard, so you don’t feel constrained. We host a lot of people and everyone tells us our sukkah is extremely unique.”
Lazar, originally from Toronto, began working in the construction and renovation business in his early twenties to help put himself through college. In 2003, he opened a seasonal business helping families put up their sukkahs to make extra cash. Today, “it has turned into one of the most lucrative and exciting things I do every year.”
Lazar, who made aliyah in 2008, describes his sukkahs as dynamic, high-quality and high-end. He built a spacious sukkah now used each year by Chabad of the United Kingdom. He has designed and built sukkahs for families in New York and Toronto.
“We built a lot for well-to-do families across North America,” Lazar explained.
The process is usually like this: A client learns about Lazar through word of mouth and calls to discuss his dream sukkah with the company. Usually, the individual reports that he has a really nice home and doesn’t want an off-the-shelf sukkah for the holiday, but something “very special,” according to Lazar.
Lazar offers several sukkah designs, but each sukkah is customized according to the size, color and shape of the space in which he is working.
“Something about each sukkah is different and unique to that person,” Lazar said.
He uses a combination of materials, ranging from cedar and high-end spruce to polycarbonate or other plastics. The materials are shatter resistant. One of his clients uses the sukkah panel Lazar built as an enclosure for a backyard skating rink the rest of the year.
The Diamond Luxury sukkah, for example, is diamond blue and made from a combination of painted polycarbonate and highend spruce. It runs for around $10,000.
The Crystal Edition uses sturdy, lightweight materials that create an open, elegant product with an unrestricted view of one’s outdoor surroundings. But one time, Lazar built it with one wooden wall, as the client wanted to be able to hang pictures and other decorations there.
When he first got started, he designed the Diamond Edition.
“My goal was less to build the sukkah and more to make the client freak out with happiness,” Lazar said with a chuckle. The sukkah ended up costing him almost as much as he was paid, as he ran into several glitches along the way – like when the panels, which were supposed to be fabricated in Toronto and delivered to the US, did not arrive. Lazar ended up heading to local stores and refabricating it on site.
“The client literally started crying when she saw it,” Lazar said. “She had built this gorgeous house and wanted something beautiful.
That sukkah was really a work of love.”
Lazar focuses on a combination of design and construction best practices. Because he is from Toronto, where Sukkot time can be “insanely cold and wet,” all of his sukkahs are weatherproof. He also focuses on solid wood and sturdy construction to ensure no natural element or other could easily knock the sukkah down.
“We want beauty, but we also don’t want the sukkah to fall down, be dangerous or the cause for any accidents,” he said.
Most people design their sukkahs to match their homes and use the outdoors as their decorations. But he said others hang gorgeous chandeliers or flower arrangements from the ceilings.
Diane Zeligman from Toronto purchased a Classic sukkah from Lazar, and she cannot stop raving about his work. She told The Jerusalem Report that Lazar is “honest, on time and kept me up to date. He was very easy to work with… Not a person comes into the sukkah who doesn’t make a comment about how lovely it is.”
Zeligman said she was awed by the way Lazar managed to customize the wood to her liking and work with the existing space.
Her sukkah is built so she can enter it directly from her kitchen, almost as if it is an extension of her home. A second sukkah door opens into her garden.
“I am an old lady,” says Zeligman matter- of-factly. “My standards are quite high, and I have no complaints whatsoever.”
Jeffery Silver, also of Toronto, built his Luxury Sukkah three years ago when he and his wife – who normally spend the holiday in Israel – were expecting their first son.
“It looks like an outdoor living room,” Silver describes. “It is made completely of plexiglass and is totally open to the outdoors.
The supporting beams are the same color as my house, so it blends in.”
He continues, “It is awesome. Avi did an amazing job and went the extra mile to make sure it got done properly.”
When asked why one would spend anywhere between $1,000 and $20,000 to build a sukkah – the price range that Lazar provided – that is used one week per year, Silver and Gryfe say it is about fulfilling the mitzvah of Sukkot in the best possible way.
“Sukkot is a good time to spend with family and friends, and the more comfortable and beautiful your sukkah is, the more enticing it is to sit there and enjoy it,” Silver explains, noting that the year their son was born, they hosted a lot of guests in the sukkah, including for a Simchat Torah prayer service. “In my mind, that is what Sukkot is all about, and that is why we invested in one of Avi’s sukkahs.”
Adds Gryfe, “Part of the mitzvah of building a sukkah is to beautify it to the best of your ability.”