The following is the sermon delivered by Daniel Sieradski at Occupy Rosh Hashanah in Liberty Square, earlier this evening.
Today we are here to rejoice and we are here to cry. For as Rebbe Nachman taught, “On Rosh Hashanah you must be joyous… and on Rosh Hashanah you must weep.”
We are here to rejoice in the world and in our bodies… To celebrate our very existence. For today, according to Jewish tradition, is humankind’s birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY HUMANS!!! Today we celebrate our creation as a species and we celebrate our Creator, the infinite Divine which wills itself into the form of human beings and which breathes into each of us the breath of life, imbuing within each of us a holy spark, intrinsic worth, individual purpose, and inalienable rights.
That is why we are so pleased to celebrate tonight with our Jewish and non-Jewish friends alike, because it is not just our birthday as Jewish people, it is all of our birthday together as people, period. Our Rabbis taught that all people are descended from the same source and are all made in the image of the Divine. And thus we are bound together, all of humanity, as one family, responsible to and for one another: And so it is said, “You should love your fellow as yourself.”
And that is why were are also here to cry. We cry because, whether individually or communally, we have failed to live up to our best versions of ourselves and to meet our responsibilities to one another. We have failed to be as righteous and just as we each have the potential to be in our words and deeds. We expect better from ourselves and for each other. And so, while we celebrate, we also repent.
As we look around the world and we see its fullness and brokenness, its poverty and wealth, its hunger and its greed, its laws and its lawlessness, we know: We are failing to merit the blessing of our Creator. We know that even with all we have accomplished, we are capable of so much more as individuals, as communities and as a species. And so we cry. Because as the Talmud teaches, “When others are suffering, no one should say, ‘I will go home, eat, drink, and be at peace with myself.’”
The severity of humanity’s crisis cannot be understated. In Shemot Rabbah we learn, “If all other troubles were placed on one side and poverty on the other, poverty would outweigh them all.” Exodus Rabbah says, “There is nothing in the world more grievous than poverty; it is the most terrible of all sufferings.” And Talmud Nedarim says, “Poverty is a kind of death.”
You have likely heard the famous Talmudic teaching, “Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” That makes 46.2 million worlds to save in the U.S. alone.
How did it come to this? How did we find ourselves here?
Through indisputable greed and the hardening of our hearts.
The Seridei Eish says, “Exemption from taxes is acceptable only for those taxes established by the government for its own sake, but not those that strengthen the needy.” Yet our politicians continue to lower taxes for the wealthy while slashing social programs that benefit the poor and the working class.
It says in Talmud Baba Metzia, “Whoever withholds an employee’s wages, it is as though he has taken the person’s life from him.” And yet we import cheap labor, export jobs to overseas sweat shops, resist minimum wage laws, and attack workers’ collective bargaining rights.
The Ben Ish Chai wrote, “It is forbidden to steal or embezzle anything at all–whether of great or little value.” But what of our savings, our pensions, our homes? Will no one be brought to justice for their gain from our losses?
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato wrote that, “Most people are not outright thieves but get a taste of stealing whenever they permit themselves to make an unfair profit at the expense of another.”
Talmud Shabbat says, “When one is brought for their final judgement, the heavenly tribunal says to him first, ‘Were you honest in your business dealings?’” What will they ask of our coreligionists, among the executives of Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns? Will their sins be overlooked for their sizable contributions to charity? No, says Rambam: “A mitzvah that is done by committing a sin is not a mitzvah.”
How many folks here have been told to “get a job and take a shower” when they’ve said they’re an Occupier? Vayikra Rabbah says, “If a rich man says to the poor man, ‘Get a job,’ God says to the rich man, ‘It’s not enough you deprived him, but you mock him too?”
In Deuteronomy, we are given warning: “Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God…Otherwise…when you build fine houses and settle down…and your silver and gold increase…then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God…You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you…wealth.”
The Torah reminds us again and again, you did not earn what is yours by your hands alone, you earned it with the blessing of the Creator who also blessed you with the good fortune to be able to share with those in need!
Rambam says those who ignore their responsibility to the poor are called “lawless” in the same way that an idol worshipper is called “lawless.” He says, “God is close to the pleas of the poor. Therefore be careful with their cries!”
"He who closes his ears to the outcry of the poor, he too will call and not be answered!"
But we are not here to call for nor glory in the downfall of our fellow. We do not wish ill upon the wealthy. We are here to rescue them from their fate, which is ours too. Just as our father Abraham sought to rescue Sodom, pleading with the Creator to spare the city its ultimate retribution for its cruelty to the poor, we come to plead for the poor and wealthy alike.
As Rebbe Nachman taught, “The purpose of sounding the Shofar is to arouse people from their sleep.” And so we seek to rouse the wealthy with our collective cry.
"Our repentance, our mitzvah of listening to the shofar blasts," said Rebbe Nachman, "arouses Hashem’s pity on us." And so with the cries of our shofars, we beseech the Creator to have pity and plead for mercy on behalf of the poor and the destitute, on behalf of the worker and the migrant, on behalf of the enslaved and the oppressed, and on behalf of the wealthy who exploit, enslave and oppress, that they may come to repent and be redeemed.
Thus we find ourselves here, at Occupy Wall Street. We come here to this seemingly unusual setting on one of the holiest days of the Jewish Year, not only to celebrate, but to “Open thy mouth, judge righteously and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” We come here to dedicate ourselves to the struggle on behalf of our fellow human beings, to ensure their dignity, to uphold their rights, to pursue justice on their behalf, and to resist the cynicism, callousness, greed and evil exhibited by “those who would devour the needy.” We assemble here to rededicate and renew ourselves, reawaken our spirits, refine our consciousness, reassert our values, clarify our purpose, and to reignite our passion. We have come to renew the world, with a sacred vision for humanity.
Rebbe Nachman teaches, “Know that thought is very powerful. If a person concentrates very deeply about something he can bring it about.” And so on Rosh Hashanah, we devote our consciousness to conceptualizing and projecting a vision of the world in which we want to live: A world of justice, kidness, compassion, charity, healing, peace, and loving.
Close your eyes and envision a world without want, a world without suffering, a world without pain, a world without inequality, a world without inequity. Hold that vision in your mind. Imprint that vision upon your consciousness. Keep it in your mind when you wake up and when you go to sleep. When you contemplate your interactions with others. When you contemplate your activism and your work on behalf of those in need. When you’re on the barricades tomorrow, tussling with the NYPD. When you’re talking with your partner and your children. With your fellow students and coworkers. With your parents and their cranky, conservative friends. With the conservatives with whom you argue on Facebook. Keep it in mind for as long as you can, with as much intensity as you can, and in spite of every deterrent. Rise to meet that vision. Allow that vision to transform you, to transform the way you interact in the world. To transform the way you interact with yourself. Recognize the Divine in yourself, recognize the Divine in your fellow, celebrate humanity and the dignity of all humans the way you celebrate those dearest to you. And soon you will find that the world will rise to meet your vision.
May Hashem bless us with a year of prosperity and peace and the heralding of a new paradigm in which justice reigns supreme.
Happy birthday humans! Happy birthday OWS! Happy New Year! Shana tova u’metukah! Chag sameach! Peace, blessings and love to all!
Sunday, September 16, 2012
In or near Zuccotti Park, NYC (TBD) RSVP Online
September 17, the one year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, is rapidly approaching. The S17 Day of Action, which commemorates this anniversary, by chance or by fate, fortuitously falls on the Jewish high holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the Jewish New Year.
Last year, on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, a Kol Nidre service was held at Occupy Wall Street, drawing an estimated 1,000 participants, and receiving international media attention. A sukkah for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot was later erected in Zuccotti Park, creating the precedent for the tent city that soon followed. These actions were the efforts of Occupy Judaism, a loose collective of Jewish activists, educators, community organizers, and everyday Janes and Joes, representing a broad spectrum of the Jewish community.
Occupy Judaism is coming together again to celebrate Occupy’s one year anniversary and the Jewish New Year together, with Occupy Rosh Hashanah. On the evening of September 16, in or near Zuccotti Park, hundreds of Jews will gather to pray and cry out for a just world, culminating in the blowing of the shofar, heralding a New Year of renewed action, and the tumbling of Wall Street like the walls of Jericho.
Just as with previous Occupy Judaism services, the Occupy Rosh Hashanah service will be pluralistic, inclusive and nondenominational. Individuals from every stream of Judaism have volunteered to help organize and facilitate services. It will also be held without a permit as an act of civil disobedience, reflecting the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel that “Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive.”
Following services, there will be a kosher vegetarian potluck dinner, where guests will enjoy traditional holiday foods including pomegranates and apples and honey, as well as festive singing and dancing.
Occupy Rosh Hashanah provides Jewishly observant supporters of Occupy with a means to participate in the September 17 Day of Action without violating Jewish religious law, thereby allowing the Occupy movement to remain as inclusive as possible. This is extremely important considering recent findings that one in six households in New York City is Jewish, and one in four Jews is poor.
This event is cosponsored by Jews for Racial & Economic Justice and Jewish Voice for Peace.
Remember Yom Kippur last year? Remember the power of 1,000 voices crying out in unison for social and economic justice in the language of the Hebrew prophets, from the midst of Wall Street? That definitive moment in progressive Jewish action was an expression of desire for a just world that continues to call out from within our hearts and souls. Let’s show the world that, with or without a park to occupy, we have not given up the struggle, and that we will not give up, until we have achieved the redemption of the world.
Celebrate the one year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street (which falls on Rosh Hashanah, September 17) and the Jewish New Year together with a potluck dinner and nondemoninational holiday service! Eat some apples and honey, learn some Occupy Torah, and ring in the New Year with a bang!
Sunday, September 16, 2012
7:30pm until 11:00pm
Zuccotti Park, NYC
Today, Holocaust Memorial Day, the unquestionably anti-Semitic image above was posted to a Facebook Page called "#occupywallstreet," making headlines in Israel and around the U.S..
While the Page does have 25,000+ followers, it is in fact not an official or quasi-official Occupy Wall Street Facebook Page connected to the Occupy Wall Street media team nor the NYC General Assembly. The Page claims affiliation with Occupy Tampa, but Occupy Tampa’s Facebook team has informed us that this is not the case. In other words, this image was NOT posted by Occupy Wall Street or Occupy Tampa, but by an unidentified administrator of the “#occupywallstreet” Facebook Page, a Page which appears to be operated by members of Anonymous and not by activists with boots on the ground at either Occupy Wall Street or Occupy Tampa.
Nonetheless, Occupy Wall Street has disavowed the Page, posting numerous denunciations to Twitter and Facebook.
While it is obviously distressing to see such hatred spoken in Occupy’s name, and no less distressing to know that there is no shortage of anti-Jewish bigots who have attempted to attach themselves to the Occupy movement, it is important to remember that this individual is certainly not a sanctioned representative of Occupy Wall Street in New York City, nor are his or her actions representative of Occupy Wall Street’s values. Occupy is explicitly against all forms of oppression, including anti-Jewish oppression, and does not sanction nor tolerate hate speech of any kind.
We will continue to monitor the situation and to combat anti-Semites whenever they attempt to co-opt the Occupy movement for their nefarious purposes.
[Update] The “#occupywallstreet” Facebook Page has been updated with the following post:
[Update 3:35pm] A representative from Occupy Tampa has confirmed that their General Assembly has no relationship to the “#occupywallstreet” Facebook Page:
This one (here) is the only Occupy Tampa facebook page, manage it for the Occupy Tampa media working group. And our twitter account is the one that repeat all of our post made here.
They’ve also given a statement to the Algemeiner Journal.
April 1: Occupy Interfaith Freedom Seder & Palm Sunday Processional
OCCUPY FAITH/OCCUPY JUDAISM INTERFAITH FREEDOM SEDER & PALM SUNDAY PROCESSIONAL IN SOLIDARITY WITH OCCUPY WALL STREET
Sunday, April 1, beginning at 11 AM
Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Sq. South
11 AM · Palm Sunday observance and Agape meal
12 PM · Palm processional and pyramid protest
1:30 PM · Freedom Seder
On April 1, 2012, members of Occupy Wall Street and New York City’s Jewish and Christian communities, including Occupy Faith NYC, Occupy Judaism, Occupy Catholics, Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, The Shalom Center, Congregation Kolot Chayeinu and Judson Memorial Church, will come together for a public Palm Sunday processional and Passover Freedom Seder in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protests.
The annual Jewish holiday of Passover marks the liberation of the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt. Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus’ triumphant arrival in Jerusalem, which is followed shortly thereafter by his expulsion of the moneychangers from the Holy Temple. These holidays are explicitly connected to the themes of Occupy Wall Street, which challenges the corruption of the financial elite and struggles towards the liberation of the 99% from the bonds of economic slavery.
Following a traditional Palm Sunday observance and agape meal at NYC’s historic Judson Memorial Church (55 Washington Sq. South), protesters waving palms will pilgrimage to five symbolic “pyramids of power” to tell the pharaohs of government and industry to “Let our people go!” A Chase bank will symbolize the corruption of Wall Street and Americans’ enslavement to debt; a McDonald’s will embody the inaccessibility of healthy food to the poor and working class; the Varick St. Detention Center will epitomize the evisceration of American civil liberties in the wars on terrorism and illegal immigration; a BP gas station will represent environmental devastation wrought in the callous pursuit of profit; and the NYU Financial Aid office will signify crushing student debt. At each stop, clergy will recite Biblical texts and demonstrators will reflect on the connection between these oppressions and the unyielding corruption and insatiable greed of the 1%.
Following the palm processional, protesters will return to Judson Memorial Church for an interfaith Freedom Seder, a ritual meal which uses food to symbolically evoke themes of slavery and liberation. Conceived of in 1969 by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, a civil rights and environmental activist who participated in the 1961 Freedom Rides, the first Freedom Seder commemorated the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, and celebrated the liberatory narrative of the Passover Haggadah by affirming the struggle for Black liberation. 43 years later, Rabbi Waskow has become a participant in and advocate for the Occupy movement – a contemporary struggle for human liberation – and will help to lead this Freedom Seder which will tie the themes of Occupy Wall Street back to the Passover liturgy.
Occupy Faith NYC is a coalition of New York City interfaith leaders supporting Occupy Wall Street. Occupy Judaism is Occupy Wall Street’s Jewish community contingent, which organized high holiday services and erected a sukkah (tabernacle) in Zuccotti Park. Jews For Racial & Economic Justice is a local NGO that addresses issues of racial and economic justice in New York City. The Philadelphia-based Shalom Center, helmed by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, advocates for social, economic and environmental justice with a prophetic Jewish voice. Congregation Kolot Chayeinu is a progressive Jewish congregation in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Judson Memorial Church is a historic New York City Christian congregation known for its leadership in the progressive faith community.
Organize a planning team. This can be as small as two people, but it will be helpful to have others on board for tweeting/facebooking/promotion.
Decide on the goals of the event. As an example, here is what we determined for Kislev RC in New York:
Ongoing Jewish presence at OWS that links the tradition to what’s going on down there.
Educate people about Rosh Chodesh.
Decide on the flavor of the prayer. Two directions one could go in:
Traditional egalitarian primarily in Hebrew.
More of a prayer/study experience primarily in English - accessible for people who are not familiar with traditional Judaism.
Decide on logistical issues:
How many people do you need as a minimum to run the program?
How long will it be (if it’s a colder month, no more than one hour.
Determine plan for promotion:
Where will you advertise? It’s a good idea to send out to your local Occupy Judaism listserv, as well as the national listserv. Many folks on these lists are eager to post far and wide.
Recruit 5-6 people to spread the word on Facebook and Twitter.
Consider reaching out to Moving Traditions, whose program, Rosh Chodesh: It’s A Girl Thing, connects with hundreds of girls, women, and synagogues around the country.
Develop your program, assign roles and general time frame for each piece. Here are two potential scenarios:
Option A: Traditional service (things to prepare)
Borrow a Torah.
Get someone to layn (4 Aliyot).
Get a Table for Torah reading.
Make a rain plan – can’t have Torah out in the rain.
Find competent davening leaders – give them time restraints.
Find extra siddurim - hopefully with transliteration.
Come up with a few places to create Kavanot to explicitly connect the prayers to Occupy movement (ie: making the link from prayer to justice) and to explain how this is a traditional service.
Consider themed group Aliyot to tie in themes of OWS.
Find someone to call out page numbers.
Ask someone to be an usher to help bring in new faces and people who show up late.
Option B: (one example of a non-traditional service)
Opening, 10 minutes: Welcome, What is Rosh Chodesh, framing that links RH to these themes.
Woman’s holidays - claiming space for marginalized. Themes of renewal.
Round of introductions, 5 minutes - depends on who’s there, how many (ie: won’t do large group introductions if there’s a huge crowd)
Framing and lead into Hallel, 10 minutes:
Celebrate the beginning of the month - Not so in gregorian (paying rent).
Rosh Chodesh as celebration.
Protest as celebration.
Protest as song.
Thanksgiving reflection - Hallel Praise that evokes gratitude.
Hallel-15-20 minutes (traditional supplementary prayers of praise sung on Rosh Chodesh).
Full Hebrew Hallel might be difficult - not accessible, consider doing an abridged version with introductions/kavanot (intention) before each song sung.
Need to make xerox’d copies.
Musical instruments - guitar and drums and major plus – ask specific people to bring instruments.
Hevruta Text studies that lead into a discussion - Prepare source sheets that bring together sources on Rosh Chodesh (see Exodus Ch 12 for first mention of Rosh Chodesh), and another theme that you are interested in exploring. Provide the sources with discussion questions for people to explore in pairs at the event. It’s a good idea to provide English translation for any Hebrew you provide. Check Wikipedia for ideas on certain themes that have historically come to be connection to Rosh Chodesh.
by Daniel Sieradski, co-organizer Occupy Judaism The Forward, Nov. 25, 2011 · Source
Occupy Wall Street is in exile. Her benches, once bountiful, lay barren. Her sidewalks — a wasteland. Where there were tents bustling with life, there is breeze. As the Book of Lamentations wonders, “How does the city sit solitary that was full of people?”
Under cover of night, eschewing the eye of moral scrutiny, Titus Bloomberg’s centurions sacked and overwhelmed the weary Zealots of Zuccotti Park, razing the golden city and carting off its holy vessels and vestments. Many pursuers of peace were beaten and taken captive. Many more were dispersed, left to seek refuge elsewhere in the land.
Perhaps it is so that the Occupiers had sinned. Perhaps this curse befell us because of inexperience and infighting, needless hatred towards one another, immoral conduct, or inadequate ambition to embody our best selves. Some say the Shekhinah (the Divine Spirit) had left days before the fulfillment of the decree, as word came that darkness had descended on the encampment.
Perhaps we were merely the victims of Sodom, whose men (and mayor) wax haughtily: “Why should we suffer wayfarers, who come to us only to deplete our wealth. Come, let us abolish the practice of traveling in our land.”
Either way, the jig would have been up eventually.
As Jews we know: Exile is not nearly the end.
Rabbi Michael Lerner wrote in a public email Sunday that the community is “festishizing the tents” — that they’re beside the point.
And it’s true. Occupy Wall Street long ago transcended mere physicality. Whether or not the occupation stays in Zuccotti Park, whether there are tents and a People’s Kitchen, the movement’s Yohanan Ben Zakkais have already redacted its collective and mutable knowledge and carried it forth to 1,500 diaspora communities spread around the world. Each has been endowed with the gifts of radical iconoclasm, personal and collective empowerment, horizontalism, mutual aid, consensus-based decision making and, of course, the fearsome people’s mic (also known as the human microphone).
They are prepared and preparing to mic check injustice everywhere. As the occupiers have so well put it, “You cannot evict an idea whose time has come.”
This past Sunday, my friend and teacher Douglas Rushkoff gave a talk at the People’s Library in Zuccotti Park. He concluded:
“Remember that you have already won.
“Whatever happens in this square, the day you leave is not the day you have lost. It is not the day you have surrendered. It is the day you have spread out. It is the day you have declared a bigger battlefield. It is the day you teachers and we students become the same.
“It is the day we Occupy the World.”
Though, pending the court’s decision, we may no longer have the physical space of Zuccotti Park in which to pilgrimage and fulfill our obligations, the people of Occupy live. In retelling our story (“We are the 99%”), recounting our values (“social and economic justice for all”) and carrying forth our tradition unto the four corners of the Earth (“Occupy Everywhere”) we are empowered to bring the spirit of the occupation into every facet of our lives, occupying not only physical spaces, but also frames of mind and moments in time.
While our hearts may always harken to Zuccotti, so long as the occupation endures in our spirits, the taste of redemption that was the blessed geulahdik anarchy of Occupy Wall Street shall stay forever fresh on our tongues. May we ever forget, shall those tongues cleave to our palettes and our right hands wither.
Occupy Wall Street has been exiled from Zuccotti Park. As Jews, we know that exile is not the end. Occupy Judaism stands shoulder to shoulder with the Occupy Wall Street protesters. We are outraged by Mayor Bloomberg’s contempt for the rights of American citizens and his use of public health and safety to justify beating and macing nonviolent protesters. The mayor’s actions reflect neither Jewish, nor American, nor human values. You cannot evict an idea thats time has come. You cannot evict 99% of America. You cannot evict 99% of humanity.
The following statement was approved by the NYC General Assembly November 12, 2011.
Friday’s anti-Semitic, racist acts that occurred on Ocean Parkway in the Midwood Section of Brooklyn and the attempt by the Daily News to link Occupy Wall Street (OWS) to these heinous acts have compelled us to release this statement. When an act of violence and bigotry occurs in our community, we, as a group, need to take a leadership role and stand with other community leaders and fellow New Yorkers to speak out in opposition to these acts. History teaches us that silence can be interpreted as approving or condoning the bigotry.
Today we condemn the reported acts of “torching three cars and defacing other property with anti-Semitic messages.” Specifically, it has been reported that “eight nearby benches were sprayed with Nazi swastikas, SS, KKK symbols, and other inflammatory remarks.”The media has attempted to implicate OWS in these criminal acts while offering zero evidence to support their claims. This ignores the fact that OWS’s values and daily activities demonstrate openness, inclusiveness, and equality. We represent a wide array of political beliefs, races, religions, and sexual orientations. OWS strives to mirror the diversity of our city. We are growing, and highly inclusive, and these aspects make it possible for some to mischaracterize, defame, and vilify this movement.
Consequently, we are inviting all New Yorkers to march with us tomorrow in solidarity against anti-Semitism, racism, bigotry and hate. We will meet at noon tomorrow, Sunday November 13, 2011, on Ocean Parkway and Avenue J in the Midwood section of Brooklyn. Let’s stand together and show the world that acts like this will not be tolerated in our community.
Shabbat is a reflection of a redeemed world – a taste of the World to Come. In that time, writes the rabbinic sage Rambam, humanity will be free “without anyone to oppress or disturb them. In that era there will be neither famine nor war, neither envy nor competition, for good things will flow in abundance and all delights will be as freely available as dust.”
With the aspiration in mind of an abundant world for everyone, this weekend is AJWS’s Global Hunger Shabbat – “a weekend of nationwide solidarity, learning and reflection around food justice. The learning and exploring of Global Hunger Shabbat is designed as a springboard into meaningful action over the following weeks and months, as we mobilize the American Jewish community in the fight for food justice.”
The issue of food justice is deeply entwined with the issue of economic justice being pursued by the protesters at Occupy Wall Street and at occupations around the nation and the world. Learn more about the Global Hunger Shabbat here and consider printing some of the resources to read and share with others over dinner.
Jewish Leaders Denounce Right-Wing Smears of Occupy Wall Street
We are publicly engaged American Jews who support both Israel and the ideas behind Occupy Wall Street and who also strongly oppose right-wing attempts to smear that movement with false charges of anti-Semitism.
It’s an old, discredited tactic: find a couple of unrepresentative people in a large movement and then conflate the oddity with the cause. One black swan means that all swans are black.
One particularly vile example was a television ad during Sunday talk shows paid for by something called the Emergency Committee for Israel that is organized by William Kristol and Gary Bauer.
It is disingenuous to raise the canard about Jews and Wall Street in order to denounce it.
Occupy Wall Street is a mass protest against rising inequality in America, a fact documented last week by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Anyone who visits Zuccotti Park understands that it has nothing to do with religion and everything to do “with liberty and justice for all.”
All of us irrespective of party or position should expose and denounce anti-Semitism where ever it occurs, but not tar hundreds of thousands of protestors nationwide because a handful of hateful people show up with offensive signs that can’t be taken down in a public park open to all.
We are pleased that the Anti-Defamation League agrees that some random signs “are not representative of the larger views of the Occupy Wall Street movement.”
Stuart Appelbaum, President, RWDSU* Jeremy Ben-Ami, founder and President, J Street Richard Brodsky, former Assemblyman, New York Danny Goldberg, President, Goldve Entertainment Mark Green, former Public Advocate for New York City Elizabeth Holtzman, former Congresswoman and District Attorney (Brooklyn) Rabbi Steven Jacobs, founder, Progressive Faith Foundation Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Executive Director, Rabbis for Human Rights-North America Madeleine Kunin, former Governor, Vermont Jo-ann Mort, CEO, ChangeCommunicaitons Eliot Spitzer, former Governor, New York State Andy Stern, President Emeritus, Service Employees International Union Hadar Susskind, Vice President, Tides Foundation Margery Tabankin, President, Margery Tabankin Assoc. Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teacher *Institutions for identification purposes only
"We’re not calling all the Occupy Wall Street protesters anti-Semitic, and we’re not calling the movement, as a whole, anti-Semitic." —Noah Pollak, Executive Director of the Emergency Committee for Israel, which started all this with its advertisement calling on Democrats to condemn anti-Semitism at OWS [Source]
"There is no evidence that these anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are representative of the larger movement or that they are gaining traction with other participants." —The Anti-Defamation League [Source]
"I really don’t see any endemic anti-Semitism at these rallies at all." —Oren Segal, The Anti-Defamation League [Source]
"Recent complaints from partisan quarters and in the media alleging widespread anti-Semitism are unfair. They attempt to paint the episodic incident as routine and ignore both the repudiation in instances of anti-Semitism, as well as the hospitable environment for Jews." —The American Jewish Committee [Source]
"In every instance, the evidence of antisemitism used to malign the OWS protesters is shoddy at best." —Daniel Sieradski, co-organizer, Occupy Judaism [Source]
"What Kristol and ECI are doing is the oldest and cheapest game played by those who have nothing to say that actually responds to the real issues. Why are they using such tactics? Because they really can’t confront head-on the concerns articulated by OWS and shared by a significant percentage of the population." —Former NY Governor Eliot Spitzer, Slate [Source]
"The extreme right wing has launched an outrageous attack to distract us from their reckless economic policies: They are questioning my commitment to my own religion. They’re attacking me to try to silence you — because they think it’s wrong that you’re frustrated and even angry about what Republicans are trying to do to this country." —Congressman Steve Israel [Source]
"I’d been down to Zuccotti Park three times before and hadn’t seen any of this. So I went again Monday. What I saw again was an overnight Athens…but nothing against my clan." —Former NYC Public Advocate Mark Green, Huffington Post [Source]
"Confused by the two apparently conflicting views of Occupy Wall Street’s relations with the Jews — The Emergency Committee for Israel portrays the occupiers as a bunch of anti-Semites, while the Forward described Kol Nidre services being held at Occupy Wall Street on Yom Kippur — I went down there myself Thursday night for ‘Occupy Simchat Torah.’ Sure enough, a couple of hundred mostly young Jews participated in joyous dancing and singing with two torah scrolls…I walked through the Occupy Wall Street encampment wearing a yarmulke and was met with no open hostility." —Ira Stoll, The Future of Capitalism [Source]
"Reckless Jew that I am, I muscled my way into the Occupy Wall Street encampment in Lower Manhattan despite multiple reports of virulent and conceivably lethal anti-Semitism. Projecting an unvarnished Semitism, I circled the place, encountering nothing and no one to suggest bigotry — not a sign, not a book and not even the guy who some weeks ago held up a placard with the instruction to Google the phrase ‘Zionists control Wall St.’" —Richard Cohen, The Washington Post [Source]
"Occupy Wall Street’s most visible anti-Semite was picketing the Financial District long before Zuccotti Park was occupied." —Josh Nathan Kazis, The Forward [Source]
"To their credit, others walked alongside him with their own signs urging people to ignore the plainly anti-Semitic placard as unrepresentative of the group." —Clyde Haberman, The New York Times [Source]
"The ratio of outraged published reports or commentaries about anti-Semites at OWS to actual anti-Semites at OWS is probably about ten to one." —Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine [Source]
"Sure, there is going to be hostile anti-Jewish feeling expressed at the margins of any populist movement, but a) it appears as if the people expressing these thoughts in the video are real outliers; b) it’s obvious to me that most people who attend these rallies are angry about corporate greed and excessive CEO compensation (among other financial concerns) and not about Israel or perfidious Jews; and c) this movement has (like most political movements, actually) disproportionate Jewish representation." —Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic [Source]
"The Occupy Wall Street protests…have increasingly been criticized by a variety of groups, most of them politically conservative, for flashes of anti-Semitism. But the protests have also, on occasion, had a distinctly Jewish flavor: The encampment has coincided with the busy Jewish holiday season and has witnessed, in its midst or on its edges, a crowded Kol Nidre service on Yom Kippur, festive dancing with a scroll on Simhat Torah…and a sukkah." —Joseph Berger, The New York Times [Source]
"The reality is that the Occupy Wall Street movement is filled with Jews." —Justin Elliot, Salon [Source]
"An ugly old tradition is back: exploiting anti-Semitism to break the backs of popular movements that threaten the power of the wealthiest 1 percent of our population. It is being used to undermine the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has conservatives in a state of near panic." —M.J. Rosenberg, the Los Angeles Jewish Journal [Source]
"Right-wing figures like Bill Kristol are pushing the idea that Occupy Wall Street is anti-Semitic to scare Jews and embarrass politicians like Obama, but the tactic is not gaining traction." —Michelle Goldberg, the Daily Beast [Source]
"The charge that Occupy Wall Street is shot through with anti-Semitism is dishonest and deceptive." —Michelle Goldberg, Tablet Magazine [Source]
"The anti-Semitic sentiments being expressed by a few should not be allowed to overshadow the legitimate concerns of the overwhelming majority of those protesting." —NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn [Source]
"To tug at the kishke-strings of American Jews in the way that ECI has is not only to demean and dehumanize us, but also to do violence to the memory of victims of actual antisemitism." —Jay Michaelson, Religion Dispatches [Source]
Want to Occupy Shabbat in your community? Here’s how to get started!
Start planning a week in advance.
Decide whether you want to do Kabbalat Shabbat and a potluck dinner, or just a potluck dinner.
Check in with your local occupation’s relevant working groups to make sure you won’t be creating a disturbance and find a good location to hold your event. Aim for a place that’s relatively quiet and decently lit at night.
Create an online sign-up sheet where people can volunteer to take on responsibilities for different pieces of the service or dinner. We recommended either Google Docs or Etherpad.
For Kabbalat Shabbat:
Determine what kind of service you want to have. Aim for the highest level of inclusivity as possible according to the needs of your community.
Aim for gender neutrality – welcoming people of all genders to lead and participate in services, without division.
You will want to find experienced volunteers to lead services – preferably one for Kabbalat Shabbat and one for Maariv.
If you expect a larger crowd, you may want to have several people with strong voices supporting the service leader.
If you need help learning the liturgy, check out Siddur Audio.
You may want to bring extra siddurim (prayer books), kippot/yarlmulkes, and instruments (if applicable) for those that do not have or who forget to bring their own.
For Shabbat dinner:
You will need volunteers to say the blessings over grape juice and challah, as well as birkat hamazon (grace after meals).
Make sure that potluck participants sign-up to bring a kiddush cup, grape juice, challah, a challah cover, water for people to wash with, a towel for hand drying, and some bentshers (prayerbooks containing grace after meals and Shabbat songs). You will also need bags for trash and recycling.
If it will be cold and/or wet outside, consider bringing a folding table.
Try to ensure an even mix of appetizers, entrees and desserts.
Encourage people to bring either their own reusable plates and utensils from home, or biodegradable plates, utensils and napkins to share with others. Don’t forget serving utensils!
For either Kabbalat Shabbat or Shabbat dinner:
You should find someone to give a d’var tzdek – a short Torah teaching that connects the efforts of the Occupy Wall Street movement back to either the current Torah portion or to Jewish values more broadly. Check out AJWS and Jewcology for ideas.
Create a Facebook, Tumblr or Eventbrite page calling for a Kabbalat Shabbat service and/or Shabbat potluck dinner at your local occupation.
Set the start-time for shortly after sundown.
Specify the location where you’ll be meeting.
Be sure to include the link to your volunteer sign-up sheet.
Consider having an email sign-up sheet the day of your event for people who are comfortable writing on Shabbat. Try to have a clipboard handy.
If your event is a success, consider building on the momentum by setting up an Occupy Judaism Facebook or Google group for your local community. Use the group to plan future actions: those that bring more Jews out to your local occupation and those that bring the values of the occupation back to your Jewish community.
Consider having members of your group join the working group at your local occupation that deals with outreach to the spiritual/religious community.
Have your group’s key organizers join the Occupy Judaism National Working Group (which is far less daunting than it sounds). Email us at info at occupyjudaism dot org.
Sukkahs are the new front in the battle to occupy NYC and Seattle
For immediate release Contact Daniel Sieradski firstname.lastname@example.org 347-560-0440
Protesters at Occupy Seattle lock arms to defend a sukkah from destruction by the Seattle Police.
This weekend, police in NYC and Seattle forced Jewish protesters to take down temporary shelters used to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot – the Feast of Tabernacles – an annual week-long harvest festival, which also commemorates the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. During Sukkot, Jews are obligated to treat a temporary dwelling known as a sukkah as their primary residence, and “should eat, drink, study, amuse ourselves, and sleep” there, according to the Shulchan Aruch, the code of Jewish law. “Even our friends should be entertained in the sukkah,” it says.
However, in both New York City and Seattle, where hundreds of protesters are occupying public parks, city government is preventing individuals from erecting shelters that would allow them to survive the weather and continue their occupations.
On Wednesday, members of Occupy Judaism NYC erected a Popup Sukkah, a portable nylon tent-like sukkah, while surrounded by supporters, press and legal observers. Police inquired as to the commotion surrounding the structure and upon learning that it was a Jewish ritual object, one officer threw up his hands and said, “We’re not messing with that,” and backed away. This precedent gave Occupy Judaism impetus to advise other demonstrators who identified as Jewish to erect temporary dwellings for themselves and their guests in order to join in the celebration of Sukkot.
Daniel Sieradski, national organizer of Occupy Judaism and co-organizer of Occupy Judaism NYC said he told other protesters that “If you identify as a Jewish person, you should build for yourself a temporary dwelling and join us in the celebration of the holiday. Inform the police: I am not Orthodox and I do not follow the letter of the law, but the spirit of the law, which says that you should dwell in a temporary shelter for the week of Sukkot and that it is our custom to invite our friends and neighbors to join us in our dwellings. This will help people stay out of the rain and cold for at least a week.” When asked whether this constituted a distortion of Jewish practice, he responded, “There is no better application of Jewish practice and law than towards the elevation of human dignity. Let the occupiers occupy sukkot!”
On Wednesday evening, another Jewish demonstrator, acting on Sieradski’s advice, erected a shelter which he identified with a sign as his sukkah and was approached by over a dozen police officers who insisted he take it down. 200 demonstrators then surrounded the police chanting “Do the right thing!” and “Shame on you!” The structure nonetheless came down.
On Thursday afternoon, Sieradski and members of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) moved their sukkah to the center of the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Zuccotti Park in anticipation of a showdown with the NYPD which was expected to evict the occupiers under the pretense of cleaning the park. Surrounded by concentric circles of protesters locked arm-in-arm, Sieradski planned to stay inside the sukkah praying when police arrived, insisting that they remove him and take down the sukkah themselves if they wanted it to come down. “If the Jewish mayor of New York wants to send his thugs to pull a Jew out of his sukkah in a 20% Jewish city on a Jewish holiday, let him be my guest,” Sieradski said.
The need for a showdown was obviated when thousands of supporters joined the occupiers in Zuccotti Park early Friday morning, including Rabbi Ellen Lippmann and congregants of Brooklyn congregation Kolot Chayeinu, who joined Sieradski and JFREJ in defending their sukkah. The city soon announced it was indefinitely postponing the cleaning of the park.
On Thursday night, 10 protesters participating in Occupy Seattle were arrested after building a sukkah to celebrate the holiday, while also trying to leverage the sukkah as a means to establish precedent for the erection of structures in Westlake Park. The protesters, who had locked arms in and around the sukkah, were broken up and hauled off by police while protesters chanted, “Happy Sukkot! Let my people go!” Raw video footage of the arrests and the Seattle police department’s destruction of the sukkah is available online here. (Seattle Times story here. Seattle Post Intelligencer photos here.) Organizers of Occupy Sukkot Seattle say they intend to reestablish their sukkah Saturday, October 15 at 4:30PM PT.
On Friday night, Occupy Judaism NYC took down their Popup Sukkah which had been ravaged by the inclement weather in New York City, intending to replace it Sunday with a more durable structure. In the interim, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice chose to erect a temporary shelter that was nonhalakhic (meaning, not formally recognized under Jewish law), where they held a Shabbat celebration and potluck dinner. A dozen officers from the NYPD intervened and forced JFREJ to take the shelter down saying that a sukkah had to “be open to the sky.” Daniel Sieradski asked the officers, “Why do non-Orthodox Jews need to observe an Orthodox interpretation of Jewish law?” The police could not provide a sufficient answer and forced the structure to come down anyway, leaving Sieradski to wonder, “Since when is the NYPD arbiter of what is and is not a kosher sukkah?” The incident was observed and documented by the National Lawyers Guild.
Sukkahs have been erected at occupations in nine cities as part of Occupy Sukkot, a celebration of the Jewish holiday by a decentralized network of Jewish supporters of the international Occupy movement known as Occupy Judaism. These Jewish activists believe in unifying their Jewish practice and social justice values with radical direct action. Read the movement’s official statement announcing Occupy Sukkot here.
Mark this: on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you all have gathered in the yield of your land, you shall observe the festival of YHVH [to last] seven days… On the first day you shall take the product of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before YHVH your God seven days… You shall live in booths seven days; all citizens in Israel shall live in booths, in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt.
—Leviticus 23: 39-48
Every autumn, in the end of the agricultural calendar, Jews celebrate the harvest festival of Sukkot. We leave our homes and enter the sukkah (plural- sukkot), a hut, temporary dwelling made of simple materials, covered sparsely with branches.
At the time when our agrarian ancestors had completed gathering the bounty of the year’s crops into their homes they would celebrate by leaving their homes, by building sukkot under the sky. We live in the sukkah as we would live in our homes: eating, drinking, studying, celebrating, even sleeping. For the roofs of the sukkah the Israelite farmers would return to the fields they had harvested and pick up the discarded sheaves and branches.
On Sukkot we celebrate the blessings of abundance in our lives by reminding ourselves of our vulnerability and of the fleeting nature of material wealth. On this festival we imagine a society living out the values of true justice and compassion for all.
The Sukkah is meant to remind us of God’s protecting the Israelites when they were most vulnerable. As they traveled—a ragtag nation of ex-slaves—through a treacherous desert, God protected them by providing booths and a glorious pillar of clouds to shelter and guide them. At their most vulnerable, the Israelites were protected by Divine grace.
Sukkot is an equalizer. Some sukkot are nicer than others, but all are modest, vulnerable huts whether the owner is wealthy or poor.
Our tradition teaches that the festival of Sukkot can only be celebrated when the whole community is gathering the harvest and reaping the bounty of the land not simply a few wealthy individuals, as it says, “when you [plural] have gathered in the yield of your land, you shall observe the festival of YHVH.”
For a sukkah to be “kosher” it need only have a minimum of 2 ½ walls. It is not a cloistered place for the elite. On the festival of Sukkot we leave the doors of our sukkot open for all guests- friends and strangers, wealthy and destitute. We find comfort in sharing our blessings of sustenance, knowing that God’s presence is in our midst only when we create space for all.
At the time of our harvest we enter our sukkot and look up at branches above, a stand-in for the Clouds of Glory, to remind ourselves that we are here but for the grace of God; our stuff cannot protect us.
The world is blessed with an abundance of food. Hunger is a manmade problem. If we allocated our resources properly, all people could have enough to eat.
We chose to erect and occupy our sukkah here at Zuccotti Park. There is no better place to celebrate the festival of Sukkot this year than right here at Occupy Wall Street. We stand in solidarity with all those who are challenging the inequitable distribution of resources in our country, who dare to dream of a more just and compassionate society.
Chag Sameach from Occupy Judaism Tishrei 5772 · October, 2011
The world produces enough food to feed everyone. World agriculture produces 17 percent more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 percent population increase. This is enough to provide everyone in the world with at least 2,720 kilocalories (kcal) per person per day (FAO 2002, p.9). The principal problem is that many people in the world do not have sufficient land to grow, or income to purchase, enough food.
[On the Festivals] a person is obligated to be happy and in good spirits; he, his children, his wife, the members of his household and all who depend on him, … each one in a manner appropriate for him.
What is implied? … When a person eats and drinks, he is obligated to feed the stranger, the orphan and the widow and the other poor and destitute people. But one who locks the doors of his courtyard, and eats and drinks, he and his children and his wife, and does not feed or give drink to the poor and the embittered of soul, this is not a rejoicing of mitzvah, rather it is the rejoicing of his gut. And about him, it is said, “Their sacrifices will be the like the bread of mourners, all that partake of them shall become impure, because their bread was [kept] for them alone.” (Hosea 9:4). Happiness like this is a disgrace for them…