Posts Tagged ‘Jewish rituals’

‘Sukkah City’ – the Movie

September 19, 2013

This piece was first published on The Arty Semite blog at the Forward.

Sukkah City - The Gathering (photo credit: Michael Surtees)

Sukkah City – The Gathering (photo credit: Michael Surtees)

Fortunately for us, Jason Hutt decided not to let another Festival of Tabernacles go by without completing his “Sukkah City” documentary film about the 2010 architectural design competition and exhibition of the same name. Having had its world premiere in Jerusalem this past summer, the film is now ready for Jewish holiday prime time, with New York screenings next week, during the intermediate days of Sukkot. One screening will take place in Union Square, where the contest’s 12 winning designs stood three years ago for just two days.

Although Hutt, 36, is not an architect or designer, he answered the request for proposals issued by Sukkah City co-creators journalist Joshua Foer and Reboot co-founder Roger Bennett in the summer of 2010. A filmmaker focused on how creative, innovative lenses can be applied to Jewish tradition, Hutt told the creators he wasn’t interested in designing a radical sukkah, but instead in building a cinematic narrative chronicling this unprecedented venture from start to finish.

Impressed with Hutt’s idea, and perhaps also seeing the filmmaker’s last name as a sign, Foer and Bennett decided to give him full access as the project unfolded. The result is a 67-minute-long exploration of how cutting-edge architectural design and highly thoughtful craftsmanship can inform and interpret a 3,000 year-old Jewish ritual structure for the 21st century.

It is equally intriguing to learn how the architects (almost all of whom are non-Jews) were deeply affected by designing and building a sukkah. (For some of them, this was the first time they actually built a structure with their own hands). Challenged, rather than deterred, by the strict Jewish laws prescribing how a sukkah must be built, they embraced the metaphysical concepts behind the temporary structure. This motivated them to think far outside the box (or in this case, the booth), leading to sukkahs resembling bubbles, porcupines, funnels and cocoons. It seems the theological notion that adherence to the laws leads to greater freedom played itself out in terms of the the wildly imaginative designs that emerged.

Click here to read more and watch the trailer.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

Read more: http://blogs.forward.com/the-arty-semite/184203/sukkah-city-the-movie/#ixzz2fMQC7H61

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Casting Our Sins In To The e-Wilderness

August 29, 2013

This article was first published in Haaretz.

2_EnterYourConfession

SAN FRANCISCO – If you keep an eye out, you’ll notice a goat wandering around the Internet.

This being the Jewish season of repentance, it isn’t just any goat. It’s an electronic scapegoat onto which computer and smart phone users are unloading their sins in a virtual reenactment of the ancient Yom Kippur ritual described in Chapter 16 of Leviticus.

“I’m too often grateful to get to work and away from my spouse and kid,” confesses one person. “I sexted my ex,” admits someone else. Another individual divulges that they “once ate bacon before the rabbi came over.” One parent apparently only “go[es] cycling with my kids just to get a tan.”

While we may be reluctant to own up to our misdoings, it seems that eScapegoat, a new web app from G-dcast, a fast-growing San Francisco-based Jewish educational media production company, is helping some of us overcome our sheepishness. G-dcast makes self-reflection easy. If you can tweet, then you can atone.

All you need to do is go to escgoat.com and read short texts on the biblical scapegoat story and how it relates to today’s observance of Yom Kippur. Then you enter your maximum 120 character-long confession and post it anonymously. You just type and click your way through the initial stage of atonement. “It’s just like the bible, only nerdier,” the on-screen text tells us.

There is, however, one major difference between then and now. In biblical times, the sins cast onto the scapegoat only went as far as the animal made it in the desert before dying. With this cyberspace-dwelling cartoon goat, our sins could live on forever, having been broadcast out to the world through eScapegoat’s (lightly moderated)@SinfulGoat Twitter feed.

Click here to read more.

@ 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

To Cut Or Not To Cut

June 16, 2011

This opinion piece was first published as “The Jewish Opposition to Circumcision” on The Sisterhood blog of the Forward.

Foreskin Man comic book

To cut, or not to cut, that is the question. At least, that seems to be the dilemma du jour as residents of San Francisco gear up to vote this fall on a proposal to legally ban circumcision of males under the age of 18. Leaders in the Jewish and Muslim communities, along with others who want to protect parents’ right to circumcise their infant sons for either religious or health reasons, have been up in arms, giving interviews to Jewish and mainstream media, starting groups like the Committee for Parental Choice and Religious Freedom, and denouncing the creator of Foreskin Man and his nemesis Monster Mohel.

Drowned out by all this frantic activity is the growing voice of Jews who oppose circumcision and brit milah. I’m not talking about the generally older, secular Jews involved in anti-circumcision campaigns in San Francisco and other parts of the country. I’m referring to young, Jewishly committed couples who are calling into question the religious legitimacy of bringing a male child into the covenant by surgically removing a part of his sexual organ.

Click here to read more – including the many comments that this post has generated.

© 2011 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.