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“Treyfing” Sukkot?

Sukkot is my favorite Jewish holiday. I like a good harvest bounty; I like that I can share meals with friends not in my kitchen; I like that I can eat while meditating on stars peeking through a canopy of colorful paper chains, laquered gourds, and chili pepper lights (which always adorned my family’s sukkah). In preparation for Sukkot (just a few hours away!), I've been thinking about other, more provocative, sukkah decor that might be inside the sukkot in which I eat.

Jewish Women Watching (JWW), the anonymous activist collective that aims to rouse the public to challenge discriminatory practices in the American Jewish community, has infused Sukkot with something of a dare. They’ve introduced a Sukkot campaign called “Embrace the Treyf” that strikes me as both appropriately insightful and incite-full. Writers for Jewschool, Jewess, and JSpot have all been musing about JWW’s somewhat inflammatory “Embrace the Treyf” postcards, each of which juxtaposes a social justice issue considered “kosher” in the organized Jewish community with one that is considered “treyf.” One postcard reads:

“Kosher: Fighting Anti-Semitism | Treyf: Fighting racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. EMBRACE THE TREYF.”

Other cards juxtapose confronting human rights abuses against Darfurians with confronting human rights abuses against Palestinians; building houses in New Orleans on Spring Break with building a movement against gentrification in our own cities. You can probably guess which of these actions were assigned to the Kosher category and which were assigned to Treyf.

I like this campaign. I like that these juxtapositions present a sharp challenge to the organized Jewish community—boldly, cleverly, and succinctly—and boost the harvest festival with a charge to act. I like that they spark conversation; that they make people—myself included—feel a bit uncomfortable and call our own commitments into question. And I’m in full agreement that the Jewish establishment could use some shaking up in addition to a shift in priorities. But the Kosher-Treyf dichotomy doesn’t sit so well with me. For one thing, I do know many Jews who are more heavily invested in JWW’s “Treyf” causes than their “Kosher” causes, and who do, in fact, consider themselves belonging to the Jewish community. I don’t know if they’d appreciate their efforts reduced to “Treyf” even if it’s “embraced.” Though I understand how this “Treyfness” is framed and to whom it’s directed, I don’t actually know how constructive it is, or how compelled Jewish leaders will be to commit themselves to “Treyf” responsibilities. Might there be a more constructive, and perhaps less finger-pointing way of encouraging Jews to self-reflect and have a more inclusive social justice ethic, than what the Kosher-Treyf binary offers us? As Mik Moore wrote on JSpot: “let's embrace the treyf. And then, let’s kasher it.”

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1 Comment

Thank you for bringing the "Embrace the Treyf" campaign to my attention... Hypocrisy is most frustrating when it's built into your own community, and for that reason I agree that this campaign is unsettling but good generally speaking. However, I think you're right to note that the campaign probably won't be effective in promoting the sort of reflection intended for the people intended.

It's the outside looking in... It will have to come from the inside and push outwards.

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How to cite this page

Namerow, Jordan. "“Treyfing” Sukkot?." 26 September 2007. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on September 25, 2017) <https://jwa.org/blog/treyfing-sukkot>.

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