How can an ancient religious ritual convey current social and political needs? For Dr. Gabrielle Berlinger (American Studies, UNC-Chapel Hill), this question emerged from eight years (2007-2015) of documentation of Sukkot, the Jewish festival that annually commemorates the Israelites’ Biblical journey through the Sinai Desert to the Promised Land. In this talk, Dr. Berlinger explores the holiday’s central rite of building and “dwelling” in temporary structures—makeshift shelters that evoke the physical and metaphoric experience of wandering in the wild. The flexibility of this tradition is revealed by the rich material diversity of constructions.
Significantly, in 2010-2011, Sukkot coincided with the global Occupy Movement and the migration of African asylum seekers into Israel, highlighting the contemporary search for “home” in daily as well as ritual life. In secular and orthodox communities, suburban and urban settings, minority and majority Jewish populations, Jews build Sukkot to reconcile their dreams with reality.