By Rabbi Julie Saxe-Taller, Rabbinic Cabinet Co-Chair

A Grassroots Victory:
Democrats Shelve
Iran Resolution

The American peace community, fired by a strong and substantial grassroots base, effectively managed to pressure Congress into shelving a resolution (H. Con. Res. 362), which would have opened the door for a naval blockade on Iran. Read More

Five days after Yom Kippur, we usher in Sukkot, the fall harvest festival. Thus, Sukkot follows right on the heels of the contemplative period of the Days of Awe, during which we have spent many hours preparing to manifest our best qualities in the coming year. Sukkot gives us the chance to do just that.

We emerge from days devoted to self-reflection and course correction, and the first thing we do in the Jewish calendar is to build a sukkah, a sanctuary made of materials that provide only partial shelter. We then spend eight days and nights eating and maybe even sleeping in this beautiful, fanciful, but shaky structure. For real security, we are forced to rely on our relationships and on the qualities we contemplated during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Security is a primary issue for Jews in relation to Israel. Perhaps it is the primary issue – we all know this is true for Israelis. But even for Jews outside of Israel, and even for many Jews who do not have immediate relatives or friends in Israel, there is a strong sense that our security is bound up with Israel.

The fragility of the sukkah invokes the fragility of life for Israelis and Palestinians. All parties feel this fragility, despite the fact that some feel that others are more secure. When peace is finally achieved, it will have to be built on a base of growing security for all parties, not one side or the other.

There are many examples of civilian Israeli-Palestinian cooperation even now in scientific and educational projects, environmental planning, and others areas. As we celebrate the fall harvest during Sukkot, it is also a good time to think about watering the seeds of these small-scale successes, so that they may eventually be harvested in fuller forms. We can water these seeds both by supporting them financially and by spreading the word about them, as most of the news media focuses elsewhere.

Finally, we can speak about our own connections to Brit Tzedek as part of the work of building a stronger relationship between the American Jewish community, and Israeli Jews who want and need our support in pushing the U.S. government to take a serious and forward-thinking role in brokering and supporting a just and lasting peace for Israel. Thus we will be partners in building a true sukkat shalom, a sukkah of peace.

Suggestions for Sukkot:

  • When you attend Sukkot gatherings, talk to family and friends about Brit Tzedek's activities, in particular the “Rabbinic Letter to Senators Barack Obama and John McCain,” in which nearly 700 rabbis and cantors call on the candidates to “make resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a top priority."

  • Invite loved ones to a special evening dedicated to discussing the spirit of Sukkot and the ideas of universal peace and Tikkum olam. You can download Brit Tzedek materials to guide your conversation. Consider ways in which the goal of peace might be best achieved.

  • It's customary to invite guests both literal and metaphorical into our sukkahs, including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and David and, for some, seven female prophets: Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Esther, Hannah, Huldah, Avigail. You might want to "invite" the spirits of those you consider heroes of Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation such as Yitzhak Rabin. Whose spirits would you like to have inhabit your sukkah? If you don't build a sukkah, chose seven figures - one for every night of the festival - and read something about each one at your dinner table each night.

If you would like to add to these ideas, please contact Rabbi John Friedman, chair of Brit Tzedek's Rabbinic Cabinet at

Rabbi Julie Saxe-Taller serves as co-chair of Brit Tzedek's Rabbinic Cabinet, and as a board member of the Bay Area chapter of the Progressive Jewish Alliance, a organization dedicated to asserting a progressive Jewish presence in social and economic justice campaigns. She is the Associate Rabbi of Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco , California.

A Grassroots Victory: Democrats Shelve Iran Resolution

The American peace community, fired by a strong and substantial grassroots base, effectively managed to pressure Congress into shelving a resolution (H. Con. Res. 362), which would have opened the door for a naval blockade on Iran. This resolution, proposed in May and strongly advocated by the American Israel Political Affairs Committee, would have imposed "stringent inspection requirements" on trade with Iran, making a military blockade and the legal use of force very likely.

However, just as the bill was set to pass through the House, the peace community, comprised of peace groups, religious organizations, Iranian Americans and Jewish Americans, coordinated a counter strategy and flooded the representatives' offices with phone calls, e-mails, and visits to Congressional offices. Their message was clear: though the language of the bill may imply that it simply strengthens sanctions, it actually could only be implemented by military means. Prominent military experts and military personnel agreed with the peace community and joined in opposing the legislation. It was a unique expression of grassroots power and reflected a remarkable convergence of interests between the military and the peace community.

Additional Resources:

Deploying diplomacy against Iran.” By M.J. Rosenberg. October 10, 2008.

"In Reversal, Democrats Shelve Iran Resolution." By Maya Schenwar. October 10, 2008.

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