Your buildings are empty because we are in the park…

It only took about a month or so, but, at last, the CJN finally published TWO, count ’em, TWO pieces about #OccupyToronto and, more to the point, the Jewish involvement in #Occupy activities down in St. James Park.

The first was a piece about the sukkah Jewish protestors built in St. James Park amidst all the rabid, seething unwashed antisemites who are the true face of the Occupy movement… Apologies!  I was reading the Emergency Committee for Israel release about #OWS … please disregard everything after the word “Park”.  The CJN went on to quote Daniel Roth, a Shmutznik, who said:

Jewish thought, culture, history and faith are all rooted in a vision of justice, compassion and equity. The Occupy movement is deeply in line with Jewish values. To work in this movement is to do a mitzvah.

In all, a remarkably positive piece – albeit a bit late – about the Jews of #OccupyToronto.   Did the earth stir, or was it just me?

Let us now move on to the second item: an op-ed by Rabbi Marmur.  A powerful piece.  A brave piece. (He wrote a variation for the Toronto Star.)  I have often read Rabbi Marmur’s pieces and thought to myself how guarded and measured his comments were, how couched in niceties he was about goings-on in the world or Toronto’s Jewish community.  Here, too, Rabbi Marmur wrote with guard, measure and couch, but he concluded with an image that should reverberate through the halls of every community edifice in this city… shiny new buildings that are empty “while those expected to use them study and pray in the park.”

Could this be the new slogan for the Jewish 99%?


The next jew is occupying wall street and JUDAISM itself

A must read about the unfolding events at #OccupyWallStreet.

First, a Kol Nidre service.  Then, a Sukkah.  Next, the Occupiers down at Wall Street are calling for an occupation of organized Judaism itself.

Read on.  The original is here.

October 14, 2011 / 8:31am

Occupy Judaism: A “Turning Point” in American Judaism

Post by SARAH POSNERAn editorial in the Forward calls it a “turning point” in American Judaism. The Kol Nidre service at Occupy Wall Street has blossomed into something bigger: Occupy Judaism.

Jane Eisner, the Forward editor, writes that what is “novel” about Occupy Judaism “is that it challenges the establishment on several fronts,” not just a “direct affront” to party politics, but an “audacious display of empowered Judaism, conducted without the authorization of Jewish officialdom.”

Daniel Sieradski, the organizer of the Kol Nidre service, says the movement is “tapping into something that people haven’t had access to other than through marginal Jewish social justice organizations that don’t get attention or support they deserve because people are too busy sending 18 year-olds to Israel to be indoctrinated with hedge fund managers’ money.”

Sieradski is referring to Birthright, which, according to Kiera Feldman’s investigation for the Nation, has spent “$600 million to send more than 260,000 young diaspora Jews on free vacations to the Holy Land,” a journey that was conceived as “the selling of Jewishness to Jews” and which whitewashes the Israeli occupation. It was co-founded by hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt and is funded by, among others, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. “Those are two people who have made their living by putting other people in the poor house,” Sieradski added.

Sieradksi likens this moment of the emergence of Occupy Judaism to the one created when Peter Beinart issued his own indictment of the Jewish establishment, charging that it asked American Jews to “check their liberalism at Zionism’s door.”

“We’ve been asked,” said Sieradski, “to check our social justice values at the establishment’s door.

Sieradski emphasized how many establishment Jewish organizations “do great and important things, like putting food on people’s tables and taking care of the needy,” and advocate for entitlement programs. But, he insisted, that’s not enough. “At the end of the day,” he said, “all major Jewish organizations take their money from the same Wall Street bankers who put us in this economic situation.

The focus of the Kol Nidre service Sieradski organized was on our collective role in the financial system, and “focused on our responsibilities as Jews,” he said. He admires Jewish social justice organizations of which he’s “very, very, very supportive, I’m here because I want to bring more people to be connected to the Jewish community and to organziations in the Jewish community. But I want hold the leadership of the mainstream Jewish institutions that are taking money hand over fist from Wall Street.”

The “Jewish establishment,” Sieradksi charged, “is subject to oligarchs who dictate the terms of our communal relationship.”

“I don’t want to be a schlepper for Jewish oligarchs,” he said, who “propagandize Jewish children about their Jewish values and conservative Zionism.”

Eisner writes that Occupy Judaism presents an opening for Jewish activism in an age in which religious political advocacy has been dominated by conservative evangelicals, eclipsing, for younger Jews, a time “when rabbis like Abraham Joshua Heschel marched for civil rights, and Arthur Waskow created a Freedom Seder, and Catholic priests and nuns were instrumental in anti-war agitation, their actions propelled by a fervent religiosity and expressed in liturgical terms.”

So far word of Occupy Judaism has spread by word of mouth and by social media. Sieradski says people responded to the Kol Nidre service with statements like “this was the most meaningful Jewish experience of my life.”

#j14 and #OccupyWallStreet

My intensely thoughtful spouse Noa pointed out that it was the #j14 protests in Tel Aviv (and not Tunisia or Tahrir Square) that gave folks living in Western democracies a green light to launch grass-roots, leaderless protest movements of their own.   The lesson learned from #j14 was quite simple:  You need not suffer under a totalitarian dictatorship in order to protest shocking inequalities in your society.  When democracies have serious problems that government will not address, only the people can force government to act.

So, for those who have no clue as to the goals of OccupyWallStreet (as opposed to, say, the Tea Party [i.e., CUT government] or the folks in Tahrir [i.e., CUT dictatorship]), you can read the first official statement/ manifesto here.  The Guardian’s coverage can be found here.  I note the Guardian’s piece because no other major American media outlet has really given any serious consideration (besides some short pieces simply covering the event as a “curiosity” or ignoring it because it was not newsworthy [like NPR] but then reconsidered or recent efforts which echo-chamber wire reports on the protest like this) to what has been going on down the street from their Manhattan offices in Liberty Park…

You can read about #OccupyChicago here.  The folks there have a different issue to confront – no park in which to sleep.

You can read about #OccupyTogether,the hub of all Occupy efforts spreading across the USA, North America and Europe … including Toronto!

You can also check out eleven infographics about inequality in the USA that will make your blood boil here.

You can download protest posters here.