Kol Nidre Occupies Wall Street

This past Friday hundreds of people gathered on Liberty Street in downtown Manhattan -- right across Broadway from Occupy Wall St. -- and held a religious ceremony, one mandated by their tradition and conjoined by them with the protest across the street. This article in The Forward reflects the event very well -- the most communal and positive and still serious service I've perhaps ever attended, the most honest and vital as well.

In these days, what we call the High Holidays, Jews reflect on the deeds of the past year, consider their own shortcomings and rejoice in the limitless possibilities of the new year, to live clean, honest, and conscious lives in the days to come -- with a focus on community and humanitarianism.

The fact that on Yom Kippur we confess and ask forgiveness from G-d as a community -- not as individuals -- for a long list of sins we, personally, may not have committed has always struck me as important. This year, at this service, I realized this is what the Occupy movement helps us to do -- because of course the step after confessing our faults as a community is to take steps as a community to remedy those faults. We have allowed this system to grow up, so now we must, first, acknowledge the faults and, second, truly address them.

Friday's service, utilizing Occupy's 'human microphone' since it had no permit for technological sound amplification, was the full Kol Nidre, during which the community renounces all lightly made vows, oaths created under duress and, according to one of the leaders of the service, those vows we make through bad habits. We ask for a clean slate for the new year in which we hope to focus on only the most important and holy actions. During the ceremony, the gathered crowd also made the traditional expiation for a long list of transgressions -- one amended for the occasion, which included the line:
For failing to defend Israel.

This felt a little awkward in the circumstances, until it was followed immediately by:
And for failing to defend Palestine.

Along these lines, in the only other alteration of the service, one of leaders asked that, instead of chanting the traditional Aleynu prayer, members of the gathered call out a social commitment they wanted to make for the new year and all those who wished to take it up also called out "Aleynu". It proved a particularly rousing, engaging, and moving moment -- again, particularly when two women called in unison, something akin to: "I will take responsibility for the treatment of Palestine" and people cheered.

I asked an orthodox couple at the ceremony about this, about my surprise that this certainly religious group would prove so focused on social justice and openly declare a position that few would associate with religiously observant American Jews.

She looked at me and said, "If you actually read Torah, you have to be like that."

Occupy Sukkot begins today at Occupy Wall Street with the building of a "civil disobedient sukkah" in observance of the "eight-day festival of Sukkot [which] reminds us of the abundance we have, and how very fragile that abundance is". Check out the information here.


Post a Comment

<< Home