During the Jewish festival season, which finished yesterday here in Israel (and draws to a close tonight in the States), thousands have descended on the Western Wall. All sorts have made their way to the popular pilgrimage site, from secular to Haredi Jews, as well as a sizable contingency of Christians from around the world who visit Jerusalem every Sukkot. But all of them, it seems, are being subjected to norms of Haredi society.
The area directly in front of the wall itself — essentially a large synagogue as it is used for prayers — has long been segregated along gender lines, and this is relatively uncontroversial. But it seems that visitors in recent days have been instructed to segregate long before arriving at the wall — rather being asked to get in line, according to gender, ahead of the security checks for the whole Western Wall Plaza.
Two adjacent Jewish organizations in San Francisco — the Lisa Kampner Hebrew Academy, an Orthodox Jewish day school, and the Bureau of Jewish Education — are involved in a neighborly scuffle over roof space.
The two groups are feuding over a public hearing about the placement of AT&T antennas on the BJE’s roof. Two existing antennas dating to 1997 are scheduled to be replaced by six new ones. The Hebrew Academy’s Rabbi Pinchas Lipner immediately suspected a conspiracy between the BJE and the city’s Planning Commission when he realized that the meeting was scheduled for today, the first day of Sukkot.
They may be occupying Wall Street with a sukkah in New York, but in Chicago the protest sukkah is at the Hyatt Regency. That is where the Mortgage Bankers Association’s annual meeting is being held this week, and Jewish activists figured the hotel was the best place to make their point about the need for the real estate industry to help struggling families keep their homes.
The activists — among them rabbis and cantors who insisted the erection of the temporary structure outside the hotel constituted a demonstration and not a protest — invited bankers to eat meals with them in it, and to meet with individuals affected by the housing crisis.
Bono would like Sukkot observers enjoying their bountiful meals in the sukkah to take a moment from their celebration to think about famine in Africa. ONE, the grassroots advocacy organization that the U2 musician founded to fight poverty and preventable disease in Africa, has put out a special Sukkot 2011 guide to educate people on the issue and its relevance to the Jewish harvest festival.
The 5-page booklet was written by Marc Friend, who works for American Jewish World Service in its advocacy department and who was recently an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. It provides some basic background on the rituals, traditions and religious texts of Sukkot, as well as useful statistics about the situation on the ground in the Horn of Africa and resources for further learning about food justice.
Times Square just got more crowded…at least for the next week or so. Stonehenge Partners, owners and operators of luxury apartment buildings in New York, are building “Sukkah in the City,” reportedly the first sukkah ever to be erected at the Crossroads of the World.
Inspired by the unique designs that were on view at Sukkah City in Union Square last year, this sukkah will have a façade featuring giant sunflowers, ladybugs and a blue sky — in what can be assumed to be a nod to the agricultural origins of the holiday and an ode to nature in the middle of the concrete jungle.
Produce harvested in the dead of night, smuggled and sold for high prices under the radar of authorities. Warehouses burglarized. Tourists hiding the good stuff in suitcases and getting found out by customs.
No, this isn’t a story of drug rings, but rather of lulavs and etrogs, the plant species waved during synagogue services on Sukkot, the festival that starts tomorrow night.
The 8-year-old son of a Brooklyn rabbi died in a Midwood house fire last night as his family celebrated the end of Sukkot and Simchat Torah’s start outside. Avigdor Krasny was the only one of six children who didn’t escape the blaze, according to an Associated Press report. His siblings were saved by their father, Rabbi Jacob Krasny, according to NY1 News. Three surviving brothers, ages 3, 7 and 10, and two sisters, ages 1 and 5, are in critical condition at Staten Island University Hospital.
Neighbors praised the parents’ heroics, NY1 reported. “Jewish father, Jewish mother, they had the heart to take the children out. It comes naturally,” said family friend Joel Felberbaum.
“The idea came to me this past fall while I was doing sketches for my own backyard sukkah,” co-founder Joshua Foer told the Forward.
Now, 620 design submissions, 12 finalists, thousands of visitors and more than 17,000 voters later, Sukkah City hopes to set up huts around the country for Sukkot 2011.
How naïve we were! Last week, we reported with some surprise, revelations that black market lulavs were being smuggled into Israel. Now, it seems that lulav fraud doesn’t stop with smuggling.
The Chief Rabbinate has put out notices in synagogues and public locations warning people to beware of lulavs whose tips have become split and which have subsequently been glued together. Rabbis differ on whether such a lulav may be used to recite the lulav blessing on Sukkot, as required by Jewish law.
The Chief Rabbinate’s notices say that if traders are selling “glued” lulavs, they can’t pass them off as normal ones as they currently do, and must make “full disclosure” to customers. Read about the warning here.
In the Mishnah on the subject of lulav and etrog, the species blessed on the upcoming festival of Sukkot, there’s a statement that one may not fulfill the mitzva of the lulav with a stolen lulav (palm branch). Well that’s largely been academic, as there isn’t much of a black market for lulavs and etrogs…. or so we thought.
But earlier this week, customs officials at Ben Gurion International Airport seized 300 smuggled etrogim, which were lacking the necessary Agriculture Ministry clearance and which were being brought into the country without being declared to customs officials. As this article reports, 200 shofars were also seized by customs officials.
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