By Reuven Blau / NY Daily News
Call it a cottage industry.
Yeshiva students and handymen are raking in a holiday bonanza by installing sukkahs, the temporary tabernacles that are a fixture of the Jewish Feast of Booths.
The Hebrew helpers charge about $200 to build the wooden and canvas outdoor sheds, where Orthodox Jews eat their meals during the week-long holiday, which starts at sundown Wednesday.
“It’s relatively good money,” said Mendy Schreiber, 28, who started his installation business 10 years ago.
“Most people don’t want to spend five hours on their free Sunday putting up their sukkahs.”
Schreiber uses a team of six amateur installers, mostly teens on break from yeshiva, to build hundreds of holy huts in Brooklyn and other boroughs every year.
The calls for help start coming in right after Labor Day, said Schreiber, who is in law school in Washington, D.C.
As a teen, Schreiber ran ads and got stores selling the temporary shelters to pass along his number to customers who needed installation assistance.
Those odd jobs have ballooned into a seasonal business that now nets the father of two, originally from Crown Heights, approximately $30,000 in annual profits.
“I get new calls every day,” he said.
He’s not alone.
There are signs posted all over Flatbush and Borough Park advertising the service. The business is so lucrative that one man from the Ukraine flies in for several weeks each year to get in on the action.
As for Schreiber, his client list includes some religious rock stars: the Park East Synagogue in Manhattan, and Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, the Novominsker rebbe and the head of the Agudath Israel in Borough Park.
It typically takes 1½ to 2 hours to put up the wood-plank shelters, which represent the temporary dwellings used by the Jews who fled Egypt during the time of Moses and spent 40 years wandering in the desert.
The holiday commemorates that period and celebrates the gathering of the harvest.
Some of the more elaborate sukkahs used by synagogues can take several hours to build, bringing in as much as $2,000 for those who do the job.
The business also has its hazards: each year, some cheaper or older sukkahs can topple in windy weather.
“That’s always interesting,” Schreiber said, noting that he doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all policy for handling complaints.
“It depends how they call and ask,” he said.
“If I get a call demanding something, I won’t be as receptive.”