One of New York City’s busiest — and briefest — shopping centers made its annual appearance this week.
Between Sunday, the day after Yom Kippur, and Wednesday, erev Sukkot, a stretch of several blocks along the south side of Main Street in Queens’ heavily Jewish Kew Gardens Hills neighborhood, became a pre-holiday bazaar. At wooden tables set up along the street, Sukkot supplies went on sale.
Available were Four Species sets and materials for family sukkahs. And, in once-a-year storefronts, ready-to-assemble sukkahs themselves.
Browsing to the music on loudspeakers of Deal, N.J., recording artist Yaakov Shwekey, shoppers, driving in from the Greater New York area, bargained with the young merchants (mostly boys from day schools) and a few young women (Ilana Barta, a Queens College student, was raising funds for the Bnei Akiva youth group). And they inspected the lulav and etrog collections lined up on the tables.
“Wanna set?” one young entrepreneur shouted. “$30.” A better price came from the next table. “$25.” The prices beat those offered at most Judaica stores or synagogues. There appeared to be no lulav shortage, despite Egypt’s decision this year to withhold shipment of the palm fronds. “We have our own sources,” one teenage merchant whispered conspiratorially.
“Thousands” of customers crowd into the Main Street shopping area, another arba minim hawker estimated.
Danny Chameides, a teacher from the Bronx, has bought his lulav and etrog in Kew Gardens Hills for a decade. “I come for the atmosphere,” he said, “which is the atmosphere of a shuk,” a Middle Eastern market. “A lulav and etrog shuk.”
On Wednesday, as Sukkot neared, the prices for Four Species sets dropped, a bargain for last-minute shoppers. The merchants folded up their tables. The streets were empty.
Next year, the day after Yom Kippur, Main Street’s Sukkot shuk will reopen.