December 19, 2018

Ronnie the Sukkah-Man is here for you this Sukkot

Ronnie Sieger’s model sukkah in the backyard of his home shows customers what their sukkah will look like when they are finished building it. Photo by Ryan Torok

Sukkahs are governed by laws of halachah. They need to cast more shade than they allow in sunlight. Walls that move in the wind are not kosher. However, there are many ways of building the booths, which commemorate the experience of the Israelites wandering in the Sinai desert after their exodus from Egypt. 

The roof covering, known as schach, is one part with which people have options. Some choose the natural look, using fronds cut from palm trees. Others want material that will not turn brown over time and that they can reuse year-to-year, such as bamboo mats. 

Whatever a person’s concept, Ronnie Sieger likely has what they need. He’s been selling sukkahs and sukkah parts out of his home for nearly 25 years.

Sieger, 54, sells everything to build a sukkah, including tarps, metal buttonhole poles, snap-button connectors, bungee cords, bamboo schach, sukkah storage bags and all-purpose sukkah kits.

His business was borne out of his struggle to find a sukkah that would fit perfectly into his own outdoor space. By finding the parts on his own, he realized he could create a custom sukkah that was both the right fit and price. He called it the “Sieger Sukkah.”

Ronnie Sieger the Sukkah Man. Photo by Ryan Torok

“The sukkah work, it’s something I take pride in. It’s something I’ve done a long time. It has my name on it,” Sieger said. “When I mention my name, they go, ‘Oh, you’re the sukkah man.’ It’s fun when people come in. And I am happy to help provide it and do the mitzvah.”

The sukkah business provides supplementary income for Sieger, who works full-time as a sofer (Torah scribe). His office-cum-workshop in the back of his garage is filled with Torah scrolls, atzei chaim (wooden Torah rollers) and tefillin, all in the process of repair. He also has tallitot for sale.

After purchasing a tarp last week from Sieger for $25, Joe Lipner tried on a tallit, but the B’nai David-Judea congregant decided to come back another time for the prayer shawl.

“I’m going to hold off because today my head is in Sukkot,” Lipner said.

This year, Sieger picked up a few more customers following an announcement by Bnei Akiva of Los Angeles, a religious Zionist youth movement, that it would not be selling palm fronds this year.

“As our suppliers become more remote, the logistics of harvesting, transporting and delivering palm fronds within a short time frame and just before the holiday of Sukkot is an overwhelmingly complicated juggling act,” the organization announced in late August. 

“The sukkah work, it’s something I take pride in. When I mention my name, they go, ‘Oh, you’re the sukkah man.’ It’s fun when people come in. And I am happy to help provide it and do the mitzvah.” — Ronnie Sieger

Avi Matanky, director of Bnei Akiva’s Moshava Alevy summer camp told the Journal: “One of the reasons we felt comfortable [with our decision] is we know there are other people who supply schach, including people who supply bamboo mats. We know there are other options out there for people.”

Enter Sieger, who since 1997 has sold more than 5,000 sukkahs. The Sunday before Yom Kippur was his busiest day of the season and he expected sales to continue right up until Sukkot. 

“It’s a very stressful business because everyone orders at the last minute. So that can be difficult,” he said. “But at the same time, I am happy I can help people have sukkahs in their yards.”