Religion & Beliefs

Embrace the Treyf

There is almost nothing that makes me as happy as Jewess. They’ve got a whole lot of awesome going on this week (as per usual) but I’m particularly in love with the post about Jewish Women Watching. I didn’t know … Read More

By / October 2, 2007
Jewcy loves trees! Please don't print!

There is almost nothing that makes me as happy as Jewess. They’ve got a whole lot of awesome going on this week (as per usual) but I’m particularly in love with the post about Jewish Women Watching. I didn’t know about JWW until I read about them on Jewess, but it turns out they’re an anonymous group of feminist rabble rousers who completely rock. Case in point: their project for sukkot involves sukkah decorations called Embrace the Treyf. Here’s some info from their press release:

Unlike the uninspired plastic fruit and paper chains that normally adorn the sukkah, JWW's decorations consist of postcards urging the Jewish community to take their social activism one step further. Each postcard juxtaposes a social justice issue that is considered "kosher" in the organized Jewish community with one that is considered "treyf". For example, while fighting anti-Semitism is encouraged, fighting racism, sexism, and homophobia does not get the same stamp of approval.

In two other postcards, JWW critiques the focus on band-aid solutions versus more sustainable projects. The underlying question of these cards is: "If we really want no one to go hungry, then shouldn't we be doing more than mitzvah day?" The most inflammatory card points out the Jewish community's extraordinary focus on human rights abuses against Darfurians while ignoring human rights abuses against Palestinians. In all of these cases, the group demands that the Jewish Community "embrace the treyf," that is, devote resources and attention to issues that are considered treyf as well as those already stamped kosher.

"Only once we start examining our own behavior, and working for justice even on those issues that make us feel uncomfortable, will we truly be committing ourselves to Tikkun Olam" said JWW's Bella Abzug. Particularly meaningful at this time of year, JWW draws inspiration from the holiday of Sukkot to communicate these ideas. Reb Beruriah, another member, explains, "The sukkah is a fragile dwelling, and for it to be kosher, it must be open. Sukkot is a time when we step outside of our comfort zones. We need to go beyond 'safe causes' and challenge the status quo."

So first of all, I hope you’ll all be embracing the treyf this year, and even printing out the postcards on the JWW site to put in your sukkah. But beyond that, I want to reinforce the idea of sukkot being a time when we step outside our comfort zone. It really is. By living in temporary dwellings, exposed to the elements and generally feeling vulnerable we should be getting a new perspective on all kinds of things. So take the next few days (let’s include Simchat Torah just because it’s attached) and look for some things outside your comfort zone. Try a shul that doesn’t seem to be your cup of tea. Go to the Pilates class that leaves you limping for the next few days. Invite the annoying people from Temple over for lunch. Not always fun, but good for you. Get treyfin’!