RIVER VALE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The coronavirus pandemic is bringing new meaning to a Jewish tradition.

The holiday of Sukkot is a time families eat and pray outside in a temporary enclosure called a sukkah, but this year, many are putting their own do-it-yourself spin on it.

One day before the holiday of Sukkot begins, the Gerhardt family in River Vale is building their very first sukkah.

“We had camped outside,” Amy Gerhardt said. “We thought what better year to do it.

“We thankfully got advice from our rabbi on where to look, and of course everything was already gone,” Ira Gerhardt said.

Sukkah kit websites show the kits are sold out, but the family snagged on of the last ones.

A homemade sukkah in Jamaica Estate (Credit: Instagram user bakentakeny)

Rabbi Noah Fabricant, of the Kol Dorot Synagogue, says other families are getting creative.

“We have people who are buying lumber, who are buying PVC piping,” Fabricant told CBS2’s Lisa Rozner.

A Judaica store in Cedarhurst, Long Island, sells decorations so families can spruce up the inside.

For the seven-day harvest holiday, a sukkah must have three walls and a plant making up its roof so you can see the stars and feel the rain.

“To be a little bit more connected to nature during this time,” Fabricant said.

“It’s very different from our permanent home, and certainly this year, we’re feeling that insecurity a lot more than usual,” said Rabbi Joel Pitkowsky, of Congregation Beth Sholom Teaneck.

Rabbi Mordecai Shaim at the Chabad of the Palisades says 50 more sukkah kits were sold this year. Some families even donated extras they had.

His advice? Keep it simple.

“Just do it so it should be an enjoyable experience and not ‘oy.’ It should be ‘ahhh,'” he said.

The Gerdhardt family decorates in the interior of their homemade sukkah on Oct. 1, 2020. (Credit: CBS2)

As for the Gerhardt kids…

“I think they still need a little work on it,” 4-year-old Dana Gerhardt said.

“I’m just nervous that it might not turn out right,” 8-year-old Max Gerhardt said.

“I think it’s turning out great,” Rozner said.

“But it is! It is,” Max said.

The idea is to dwell inside the sukkah as much as possible. The Gerhardt family says if the weather allows, they may even sleep inside theirs for a night or two.

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