Arrested! -- Berman, Waskow, Lulav, Etrog

Phyllis and I and about a dozen others whom we met on the scene took part in honoring the Sukkot festival Monday by bensching lulav at the Hart Senate Office Building as part of a demonstration against confirming Mr. Trump’s nomination of Mr. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. 

Bensching” [blessing] lulav means waving four species of plants -- a branch of palm, myrtle, and willow, plus the lemon-like etrog or citron -- in the seven directions of the world, to connect with the multi-species ecosystem that keeps humans and all life alive.

 “Seven directions”? Surely only six: East, West, North, South, Up, Down!  But the traditional pattern of waving is that we reach out in the different directions and then each time bring the Four Species close to our heart. As Rabbi Shefa Gold teaches, the seventh direction is inward.

Before we did the waving, I explained that Sukkot honors the fragile hut that was the first refuge of the runaway slaves of the Exodus. That hut becomes the symbol of protection for all those in our society who are vulnerable to attack – and that is the deepest root of the campaign to prevent Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. His stance in the world is subjugation of refugees, the poor, minority religions and races, and the concentration of power in the hands of the wealthy and mighty, beginning with his attempting rape and humiliating women when he was 17 and continuing into his adult politics.

The demonstration then moved to Sen. Collins’ office and chanted outside her office for about 30 minutes (e.g., over and over, “We believe Dr. Ford, we believe Deborah Ramirez, we believe Anita Hill”)  before police arrested about 50 of us (Phyllis and me included).

See very brief CNN video in the hallway outside Collins’ office. You can see Phyllis and me come walking across the scene as we look for a place to sit down. Our taleisim are light-colored enough to look as if we are wearing white clothing.


Another 100 or more demonstrators moved when ordered by police, continuing to chant but not risking arrest.  Other sit-downs at other Senatorial  spaces happened later in the day. Demonstrators were spirited, committed, about 85% women. 

 The Capitol Police were focused, calm, professional, kind to some in difficulties (including me; I need a cane to walk and without it have some balance difficulty).  Just before the arrest, I spoke directly to officers, reminding them that though we understood they needed to enforce the law as they understood it, it was a far worse crime to attempt to rape a 15-year-old girl and to order breast-feeding babies yanked away from their mothers at the border. 

We were bused to a holding building about 15 minutes away, held for about three hours for processing, submitted IDs and $50 collateral which we forfeited in lieu of standing trial.  

 As we move toward the climactic testimony by Kavanaugh and Dr. Blasey Ford on Thursday, what standards am I following in urging his rejection? Kavanaugh is not on trial for a felony, where conviction properly requires an assessment of guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Rather, he is being examined about whether he merits appointment to one of the most powerful positions in the world, in which treatment of many vulnerable people and our vulnerable Earth are at stake.

 For that job, the level of judgment should be more like “Has he exhibited the highest ethical concerns for justice and compassion, including care for the reputations and bodies of women?”  Besides the accusations from Dr. Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez, we already know he sleazily pissed on the reputation of a teen-age girl named “Renate” in his prep-school yearbook page, and boasted of being a big drinker and often drunk.  His classmates remember him as often “stumbling drunk,” and as aggressive when he was drunk.

And as a grown-up judge, he tried to prevent a 17-year-old applicant for asylum in the US who was fleeing family sexual abuse from having an abortion when she discovered at the US border that she was pregnant, probably from incestuous rape. His attitude toward that 17-year-old – trying to take control of her body, raping her in a different way -- echoed his attitude toward Christine Ford when she was 15.

 His bent toward subjugation of the weak does not apply only to women. As a Department of Justice lawyer during the War Against Iraq and since, he never objected to the Bush Administration’s policy of using torture. He has shown strong biases in favor of corporate profits for the Carbon Pharaohs, over healing the Earth and human communities from climate-crisis droughts, wildfires, and floods.

Is that the guy we want deciding our futures? Our daughters’ futures? The fate of Roe v. Wade? The fate of the Earth?

The Senate’s decision may rest in the hands of two undecided women Senators. Please call 202-224-3121 and ask for Senators Collins of Maine and Murkowski of Alaska. Talk with their staff or leave recorded messages.

 Whatever the outcome of this confirmation fight, the November election will make decisions that affect the fate and future of American democracy. Even though we are already in Sukkot, it is still possible to act on The Shalom Center ‘s campaign to “ Share Sukkot  --  Grow the Vote.We have gathered three sets of resources for this work:  (a) Posters of ushpizin, sacred guests we invite into the sukkah as heroes of the struggle to broaden the right to vote;  (b) Brief essays that look at the values of Sukkot to inform people’s decisions as they choose whom to vote for; and (c) Handbooks for registering voters and making sure they can get to the polls. 

To draw on these resources, please click to

May you and all of us be blessed with the three pillars that the ancient Rabbis taught were necessary to uphold the world:  Truth, Justice, and Shalom



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