Sunday, October 1st 2023   |

High Holidays

In Chicago, a Black-led church and a Jewish community are addressing painful history through a Succot festival


CHICAGO (JTA) — Earlier this month, 40 people gathered in Chicago’s Lawndale neighborhood to design a succah.

But they hadn’t come together only to build a hut for the upcoming Jewish festival of Succot, which begins on Friday evening and revolves around Jews erecting and dwelling in temporary structures for a week.

For this interfaith, intergenerational group, constructing the impermanent space was a step forward in what...

THE Festival


Amid its many definitions and lengthy discussion of the word “the” and its usage, the Oxford English Dictionary states that the definite article may be “Used emphatically, in the sense of ‘the pre-eminent’, ‘the typical’, or ‘the only… worth mentioning’; as ‘Caesar was the general of Rome’, i.e. the general par excellence; the being often stressed in speech and printed in italics.”

Similar emphasis and...

OP-ED: Succot is a holiday of homecoming and homelessness


(JTA) — What is home? The question sounds like it would best be answered by a children’s book on which each page proclaims a sweet tautology like, “Home is where you feel at home.” There would be a picture of the family nest, parents, grandparents, kids and a dog, a fire in the hearth and soup on the table. Home as Norman Rockwell painted it. Home...

Why most Asian Jews use imported etrogs on Succot even though their countries grow the fruit


TAIPEI, Taiwan (JTA) — Rebecca Kanthor, a member of a progressive Jewish community in Shanghai, knows that she can easily order lulavs and etrogs in a few clicks online.

Kanthor, who belongs to Kehilat Shanghai, simply logs onto Taobao, China’s equivalent to Amazon. Etrogs, important components of a ritual for the Succot holiday, are known as xiang yuan (fragrant citrus, or citron) in Chinese. While American Jews...

If you’re trying to connect to God on Yom Kippur, here’s a prayer for you


(JTA) — For those of us who don’t regularly think in theological terms, the High Holiday liturgy can be jarring to read. Some of the messages are relatively easy to relate to, like the reminder of human frailty in Unetaneh Tokef (“Who will live and who will die?”) or the expression of remorse over our shortcomings in the confession litany (“We have sinned; we have been disloyal…”). But the...

This Succot, Sarah Sassoon will celebrate in an Iraqi succah, with Czech candlesticks


For most Jews, a succah conjures a booth with canvas or wooden walls, and bamboo or some sort of foliage on top as schach. Growing up in Sydney, Sarah Sassoon, 42, had a very different experience. The succahs that her Iraqi-born father made were composed mostly of palm tree branches—both walls and schach.

That and other Iraqi-Jewish traditions can offer hints of what Judean practices...

Second Chances


Award winning writer Cynthia Ozick observes: “In books, as in life, there are no second chances. On second thought: it’s the next work, still to be written, that offers the second chance.”

Our ancestors of the wilderness era required a second chance after Moses – incensed by their faithlessness, obstinance, and idolatry – smashed the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments at the foot of...

The MLB has more Jewish players than ever — but none of them will face a Yom Kippur dilemma this year


(JTA) — For Jews and baseball fans, this is one of the most important weekends of the year.

Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day, begins Sunday evening. That day will also kick off the final week of the MLB regular season, when the fight to make the playoffs comes down to the wire.

For some Jewish players, the overlap between these two events brings conflict. In a few...

AI, pluralism and Israel: What North American rabbis spoke about in their High Holiday sermons


(JTA) — Rabbi Debbie Bravo once called the High Holiday sermon “the World Series for rabbis.” Not only does it fall in late autumn, but it’s a high-pressure opportunity for rabbis to show their best stuff to what is often the largest crowd — that is, congregation — of the year. 

The High Holiday sermon is also something of a “state of the union” address. Rabbis and...

The buzzy novel ‘Whalefall’ offers a modern spin on the ancient Book of Jonah


(JTA) — If one were to imagine what the prophet Jonah saw on his way down into the gullet of the whale, it might be something like this:

He slides feet first into its mouth on two inches of warm slime, the effluvia of a thousand squids past. Tooth sockets above him now, rancid black pits. Teeth passing on either side, yellowed cones, one missing, one...