Has Sukkos (Tabernacles) been hijacked by the 'p.c.' crowd?

Machlokes / Controversy

Jewish World Review / Sept. 29, 1999 /19 Tishrei, 5760

Has Sukkos (Tabernacles) been hijacked by the 'p.c.' crowd?

By Jeannine Mercer

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- (JTA) -- Minneapolis is using the fragile huts associated with the ancient festival of Sukkos to draw attention to a modern political and social issue -- lack of affordable housing in the city. During Sukkos, Jews express gratitude for G-d's abundance and for the comforts of home while reflecting on the temporary homes in which their ancestors dwelled during their wandering in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt.


"Since the Sukkos are temporary houses, we felt that this is a metaphor for our current housing crisis in the Twin Cities metro area," said Susan Jacobson, director of public programs at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, which is sponsoring the project.

Although the museum is primarily showcasing six models of Sukkos throughout the city that were designed by local architects and artists, it is also providing information about the Jewish holiday, and tour guides tell visitors incorrectly that Sukkos is a holiday of charity and justice for the poor and homeless.

"This is quite unique," Jacobson said. "Not only has this never been done in Minneapolis, it's never been done anywhere."


"Unique indeed," argues Binyamin L. Jolkovsky, editor-in-Chief of the daily webzine, JewishWorldReview.com. "And an outright misrepresentation."

Whereas the homeless do not choose their lot, argues Mr. Jolkovsky, "the Biblical Hebrews embraced 'homelessness' in aspiration of a higher goal --- settling in the Holy Land. Their trek from Egypt to Israel, and their dwelling in booths, was to show their faith in the Creator, that He would protect and provide for them." That Jewish groups would involve themselves in such a "blatant misrepresentation" of a Jewish religious festival, he adds, "is either another example of the cheapening of religion or a testimonial toward the sad state of Judaic familiarity."


In addition to the exhibit, the museum will host a conference to discuss the housing issue.

"Our organization is basically trying to get the Jews involved with this community issue, even if it doesn't effect them directly,'' explained Nick Rosenthal of Jewish Community Action, which is co-sponsoring the conference.

According to the Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing, the home vacancy rate in Minneapolis has declined to 1.6 percent in 1999, and average rents have increased approximately 5.9 percent; in contrast, wages have risen by 3 percent.


©1999, JTA