It is a Sukkot tradition to invite Ushpizin (Aramaic for guests) into one’s sukkah. The guest list is traditionally composed of male biblical figures including the Avot (the three Patriarchs) and others.
At WOW, we take inspiration from inviting Ushpizot, strong female icons, into our sukkah. We honor the exemplary female role models who have highlighted our feminist history, and also look to our mothers, sisters, teachers, and friends who have been integral pieces of our lives. Through this special sukkah moment, we honor the incredible women who have exemplified Jewish values through their personalities and life’s work.
Who better to turn to for meaning than the late Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. According to tradition, a person who passes away on Rosh Hashanah is considered to be a righteous person. When asked about her Jewish values, Ruth said, “I am a judge born, raised, and proud of being a Jew….the demand for justice runs through the entirety of Jewish tradition.” The timing of her passing not only displays her true tzidkut (righteousness); it also lends us the opportunity to dignify her as our Ushpizah.
RBG’s legacy is an inspiration for all. Her life-long dedication to justice and equality emboldens us to be just as tenacious and to keep fighting our fight.
For WOW, RBG’s example shines a light on the path towards gender equality in the United States and beyond. We walk proudly on that path here in Israel, striving for freedom of religious expression not just at the Kotel, but throughout the country. Through our monthly prayers at the Western Wall, booths offering the opportunity to participate in a variety of rituals, and various ritual workshops, we have made gender equality in Judaism a conversation piece in Israel and abroad.
In one of her famous quotes, RBG said, “When I’m sometimes asked ‘When will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court]?’ and I say ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” We say the same for female rabbis. When it is no longer unusual to have women as Jewish community leaders, we will be content. When women anywhere, at any time, can claim Jewish ritual and practice their tradition in a way that elevates their personal Jewish experience, we will find satisfaction.
We invite the Ushpizot into our sukkah as a way to educate and motivate the young women around us – our daughters, neighbors, friends, and students. We wish to evoke a spark of pride in being a Jewish woman. We feel it is meaningful to do this by celebrating the great Jewish women who came before us.
RBG is one of the Ushpizot whom we will welcome into our WOW sukkah this year. Think about the women who inspire you. What admirable quality keeps them forefront in your mind and heart? What values did they so proudly display?
Join us on Monday, October 5 at 12:30PM EDT/7:30PM IDT when modern Jewish female thought-leaders will reveal which Ushpizot they would invite into their sukkot.