By Rabbi Julie Saxe-Taller, Rabbinic Cabinet Co-Chair
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
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
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 email@example.com.
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
“Deploying diplomacy against Iran.” By
M.J. Rosenberg. haaretz.com. October 10, 2008.
Reversal, Democrats Shelve Iran Resolution." By Maya
Schenwar. truthout.org. October 10, 2008.
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance for Justice and
11 E. Adams Street, Suite 707
Phone: (312) 341-1205
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