Pursuing Immigrant Justice this Sukkot

SukkotSukkotסֻכּוֹתSeven-day fall agricultural festival associated with temporary booths or huts.  is a holiday of welcome, where we invite ushpizinushpizinאֻשְׁפִּיזִין"Guests" (Aramaic); mythic guests invited to the sukkah.  into our Sukkahsukkahסֻכָּה"Booth" or "hut;" temporary structure associated with the agricultural festival of Sukkot; plural: sukkot.  with its open side and exposed covering. This Sukkot, we are in a unique place. Over the past several months, we’ve witnessed North America and the world change in ways we never could have expected due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps even more than other communities, the COVID-19 pandemic has placed added hardship on migrant and immigrant communities. Right now, the borders are tightly sealed, ICE detention centers are COVID-19 hotspots, the asylum system is being strategically dismantled, and DREAMers are living in constant fear of deportation.

Following the biblical commands to love our neighbor and welcome the immigrant; reminded on this holiday of our own migration in the desert following the Exodus from Egypt; and celebrating the festival by inviting others to eat and share with us, we must find creative ways to bear witness and hear stories, learn from immigrant experiences, build relationships, and connect with migrant-led organizations with whom we can work in solidarity, all while remaining safe and following the guidance of public health officials.

The Festival of Sukkot also follows the Days of Awe, an annual opportunity to reflect on our own actions and the ways in we can do t’shuvahT'shuvahתְּשׁוּבָה"Return;" The concept of repentance and new beginnings, which is a continuous theme throughout the High Holidays.   – repent and do better in the year ahead. We do this individually and we do it collectively as a community.

These days we see in our society much to repent about, as we learn of damage being done to immigrant communities. With each day, we hear of another violation of human rights: indefinite detention of children and families, deportation of the seriously ill, returning asylum seekers to harm’s way, inhumane conditions in detention centers, massive workplace raids leaving children separated from parents, and so many more. As Reform Jews, we are committed to preserving the dignity and wellbeing of all human beings. It’s time to live up to our Torah’s oft-repeated commandment – welcome the immigrant – and the sacred call to love our neighbor.

This year during Sukkot, as Reform Jews across the Movement will eat meals and spend time learning in their sukkot, we see the tension between welcoming strangers into our sukkah in celebration of the holiday and the very real health concerns with doing so. How do we uphold our sacred traditions commanded through the holiday of Sukkot at a time when the rest of the world is telling us to isolate ourselves, to retreat from social situations, to close our doors and shut others out?

Despite the challenging time we’re facing made even more so by the pandemic, and in fact because of it, we remain committed to leading our Jewish community to seek justice. And few issues speak more directly to the need for justice than immigration.

Utilize the resources on this page to create a meaningful and intentional Sukkot experience this year. Use this unique time to reflect on the Festival of Booths and be creative about the actions we can take as a community to inspire continued immigration justice work for the upcoming year.

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