Sukkot has always been a holiday about enjoying the season, accepting human vulnerability, and eating and perhaps sleeping in a fragile temporary booth, and so appreciating divine protection. But every year Jews — and sometimes non-Jews — find ways to also make the holiday about improving the world.
We’ve rounded up a few unique sukkahs that were used to build bridges, break stereotypes, and spark change.
In New York, rabbis marched with a portable sukkah to support immigrants
Two dozens rabbis, members of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, carried a portable sukkah that they erected outside Trump Tower. The gesture was meant as an act of protest against the president’s stance on immigrants and refugees.
“Sukkot teaches us that what protects us is the community we build, not the walls or barriers we construct,” said Rabbi Jill Jacobs, T’ruah’s executive director. “What makes America strong is the diverse group of people who come here seeking refuge and who build families and communities here.” HIAS, the Jewish immigration advocacy agency, was a co-sponsor of the march.
In San Francisco, a sukkah outside a church sparked discussions about identity
During each night of Sukkot, guests were invited to a sukkah that just happens to be outside St. Ignatius, a Catholic church near Golden Gate Park, to talk about identity, difference, responsibility, and faith. The “Open Doors” sukkah, organized jointly by University of San Francisco’s Swig Program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice and the Kitchen, a nondenominational Jewish community, hosted a multifaith vigil featuring speakers who explored such themes as racial justice, environmentalism, and mass incarceration.
In London, Jews built a sukkah inside a mosque as part of an initiative to help Syrian refugees
Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and secular groups launched a program to help settle Syrian refugees by building a sukkah inside the East London Mosque in the city’s Whitechapel neighborhood.
“Sukkot is the festival when Jews live in temporary booths and are reminded of the frailty of their existence,” Rabbi Danny Rich, who heads the country’s Liberal Judaism movement, said at the initiative’s launch on Monday, according to the Docklands & East London Advertiser. “I expect Jews to be particularly sympathetic to those fleeing persecution and disruption with their historical experience.”
In northern Israel, an Israeli-Arab couple hoped to build bridges
Khalil and Reem Bakly, Muslim Arab dentists who live in Upper Nazareth, invited Jews and Arabs to eat together in their huge homemade sukkah. The sukkah is 100 percent up to Jewish religious standards: The pair ordered kosher food and got an Orthodox Jew to supervise the construction. “My dream is for this to serve as a springboard for more and more gatherings of this type that will help foster a shared society for Jews and Arabs in this country,” Khalil told Haaretz.
JTA Wire Service