The practice of inviting ancestral guests (ushpizin and ushpizata in Aramaic) to join the Sukkot meals emerged in the late Middle Ages. Each guest is associated with one of the sefirot (“spheres” of Divine emanation or attributes), corresponding to each night of the holiday in the Kabbalistic tradition. The ritual invites the Divine Presence into the sukkah, reminding us how God accompanied our ancestors on all their wanderings. It also emphasizes hospitality, encouraging us to welcome living guests as well.
In this new ritual, Dr. Noam Sienna, author of A Rainbow Thread, has selected seven pairs of LGBTQ Jewish ancestors you can welcome to your sukkah, home, or wherever you are celebrating and reflecting. Because many of these ancestors were denied the opportunity to live a full and vibrant Jewish life, and their stories were not passed down as part of our Jewish heritage, we welcome them as an act of intergenerational healing. As we bring our history and our future together, we invite these ancestral guests to join us, and we pray that our communities may truly be spaces of true belonging for all.
Before beginning a meal in the sukkah, or after you’ve taken your first few bites, we encourage you to read some or all of these texts, and welcome the ancestors invited for that night in your own words. As you reflect on their stories, what questions would you ask this person? How do you see yourselves and our communities in relation to them? What other guests do you want to invite?
A note on content: LGBTQ and Jewish history contain many moments of power and celebration, as well as marginalization and oppression. Some of these stories include anti-LGBTQ and antisemitic violence. We tell these stories not to perpetuate narratives of oppression or violence, but as an act of intergenerational healing and tikkun.