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A Small World, After All

I’ve had, for obvious reasons, Sukkot on the brain this week. One of the themes I’ve been dwelling on, if you’ll forgive the pun, is that of the small world. When we “dwell in the Sukkah,” we’re meant to shrink our whole world down and fit it in. And whenever I stop to really notice, I live in a small world—we all do. Not just a flat one (I think of that as a purely economic term), but one that’s steadily shrinking in economic, social and political ways. In the spirit of the holiday, then, a small round-up of goings-on across the not-so-very-wide world. They’re a part of our lives, too.

The Matthew Shepard Bill actually passed in the Senate, leaving only the votes and vetoes of the House and our President between an amended hate crimes law that specifically mentions crimes committed against people based on “gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability” and you. There’s been a great deal of commentary about how hate crimes are already against the law, which makes this law irrelevant and yet another infringement on your red-blooded American rights—a murder is a murder, right? Except that of course it isn’t: we have a system that differentiates between manslaughter and murder, because intent counts. Interestingly, this law has seen all of its hard-core support from the gay community—but the “gender” part affects us all.

Domestic Workers United are in the news again, as their success in passing the “nanny bill” in New York is held up as an example for other communities of domestic workers attempting to secure some variation of a domestic workers’ bill of rights. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that domestic workers make an average wage of $17,000 a year. (For more reading on this issue vis-a-vis Jewish women, click here and here.)

Myanmar, sometimes known as Burma, is imploding. The military regime clamped down on gas prices early last week, and it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. (One visitor told Lilith that when the gas prices spiked, so did bus fares–immediately and by a great deal, stranding many at work with no way to get home.) Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets, including the country’s much-revered and rarely-political monks, who have taken to ignoring the military’s orders not to march and have subsequently been fired upon. The Democratic Voice of Burma has ongoing updates, but certainly it looks like it’s going to get worse before it gets better. We’re talking about a nation lacking pretty much any rights for its citizens, with an economy propped up by oil and China. Certainly, sanctions against the regime, which have recently been enacted here in the U.S., are a good idea, but the people of Burma deserve our solidarity, as well. They’re fighting the good fight against some pretty tough odds.

Treyf up your sukkah. Yeah, I’m not wild about the language, either, but there’s no denying that Jewish Women Watching’s new campaign has a lot to say to us about the spirit of the holiday and how we can improve ourselves with sometimes painful honesty in this new year. You can download their sukkah decorations here, and then “upload” them to a nearby sukkah yourself.

There’s lots to be done in our ever-smaller world, where the problems of the world become our problems, too. Luckily, Sukkot helps us focus on the positives, putting a new spin on the old Oscar Wilde quote: we may be all of us in the very temporary Sukkah, but at least we can all see the stars.

–Mel Weiss