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Jews For The ‘Occupation’
Wall Street demonstrations feature Shabbat potluck, possible Yom Kippur service and growing number of Jewish groups.
Staff Writer
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Last Friday night, the sounds of protest in the financial district mingled with those of Shabbat prayers when 25 demonstrators gathered to put a Jewish stamp on their solidarity with the month-old “Occupy Wall Street” demonstration against corporate greed and bank bailouts.

Occupy Wall Street is increasingly drawing a Jewish presence, from white-collar professionals to a latter-day Emma Goldman to the old-line labor organizations. Their diversity reflects the eclectic nature of the protest itself, which has brought veteran demonstrators, neo-hippies and jobless young people together in lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park.

“I’m with them in other ways too, but this was one act of solidarity by the Jewish community,” said Daniel Sieradski, 32, who organized a Shabbat potluck complete with vegetarian chili, challah and grape juice, on the corner of Broadway and Cedar, near where the protesters were holding their twice-daily “General Assembly” meeting to review their progress and talk about tactics. His next act: a Kol Nidre service this Friday night.

The hundreds gathered in the park to march, orate, sleep, draw, strategize, dance and smoke have refused to appoint a leader or spokesperson and have created a functioning commune with the feel of a carnival. Hygiene is of necessity minimal, and piercings prevail, but at the edges of pallets and air mattresses sit knots of serious young people using Robert’s Rules of Order to thrash out principles and plot strategy. How to formulate a catchphrase? How to spread it? Armbands?

“If Emma Goldman were alive today she’d be down here, and she’d be at the front of the line,” said Miriam Rosenberg Rocek, 25, who has been working as a medic at the demonstration since the second day and has already been arrested twice, once mere blocks away from where her heroine, Goldman herself, was arrested in Union Square in 1893.

As an enthusiast of the “steampunk” subculture, which celebrates Victorian aesthetics and technology, Rocek frequently dresses up as the Jewish atheist and political radical and makes speeches in character. She plans to do so on Thursday in Zuccotti Park.

“I don’t want to be lecturing people about politics,” she explains. “I want to be engaging people about politics in a fun way.”

In addition to medical care offered by volunteers like Rocek, Occupy Wall Street provides its participants with hot meals, legal advice and a lending library of hundreds of books — marked “OWS Library” across the covers, yet. On Tuesday at noon, kitchen workers called for volunteers to serve lunch, while other protesters hunched industriously amid towers of cartons. Addressed to Occupy Wall Street, the packages (donated by individuals, not the online superstore) carried donated supplies like granola bars and blankets to a post office box at the UPS store across the street. Supporters across the country know what to send by following the demonstration’s Twitter feed, said one worker as he logged the boxes’ contents on a clipboard.

“We’ve seen that this is a movement that has legs,” said Martin Schwartz, executive director of the Jewish Labor Committee, which along with Jews for Racial and Economic Justice will join an official Occupy Wall Street march starting at City Hall on Wednesday at about 5 pm. “The issues they’re talking about are things that we’ve been talking about for many years.”

Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, the West Village LGBT synagogue, is also joining the march after a sign-making session at the shul. The Jewish Labor Committee is reaching out to its allies in synagogues to urge them to participate as well, and is encouraging its members and supporters to participate in the related rallies that are sprouting in cities like Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

Sieradski, a self-described “cause media entrepreneur,” told The Jewish Week he has seen some placards at Occupy Wall Street that are critical of Israel, and was attacked online when he said the protest should focus on domestic issues. But on Tuesday afternoon, the only placard with any Jewish content was a magic marker rendering of the prophet’s call to pursue justice, scrawled on the top of a pizza box. Most of the signs scattered about the park emphasized economic themes, urging passerby to cancel their accounts with Bank of America, to stop smoking and free their bodies and to “Let us realize a society based on HUMAN NEEDS and not HEDGE FUND PROFITS.”

Jewish Week Intern Gabriela Geselowitz contributed to this article.



Last Update:

10/29/2011 - 18:16
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John, you're highly misinformed.

OWS is people from all walks of life that are coming together to protest the failures of the US government to govern against corruption with it's abusive partner, big business. It has nothing to do with Jews or non-Jews. Yes, there are anti-Semites in this movement, however this is because people from all walks of life are coming together for the sole purpose of saying they are fed up. What they believe prior to joining OWS is however, irrelevant, because everyone has a voice, and there is plenty of dissent against racism against Jews in OWS. There are also former Tea Party members, Social conservatives, young people, old people, military vets, etc. Many are very much Capitalist, but want more regulation, with some sort of safety net that we have lacked in the last 10 years that have cost us our jobs, security, and possibly even our place in the world. It's good that Jews are involved in OWS, and I know a lot of Jews that agree that the system is corrupt and no longer serves the general public, and instead serves the minority.

The way you talk is extremely radical, partisan, polarizing, and overall shortsighted. Jew or no, these people have their own individual views about this world. Your actual lack of content as to why you believe these things is telling, because even if you tried to explain, I highly doubt you'd have much to stand on. In case you haven't noticed, a bunch of people from everywhere joining together to take a stand against the real evil (human greed), means a lot more than what race, nationality, or even other ideals you believe in. The point being, the forum is open, people who would not be talking otherwise, well, are.

It's not too late for you to do some real research, check out the OWS website, go to their IRC chatroom and have a conversation with them, be polite and they will be polite with you. Check out the police brutality on YouTube, have a conversation w/ ex Marines that support OWS, or heaven forbid, open up a discussion with these "evil people" that you're so willing to burn the bridges in your mind against.

You're buying the Fox News anti-Socialist/Communist/Nazi propaganda machine that has nothing to do with what OWS is. Since when does the term "evil" not fall under US citizens utilizing their right to protest the corruption in our system?

"Solidarity with “Occupy Wall Street”?

This is truly sad. I’ve been a supporter of Israel, a defender and protector of Judaism as best as any Christian could be, prior service (U.S. Navy), stepped into the fray more times than I could even begin to count to stand up against the sickness of those who love hating Jews that I’ve met throughout my life and still do today when such evil rears it’s ugly head.

It’s one thing to take advantage of a situation to seek betterment for others by way of giving the message of God. It’s quite another though to stand along side and support those who seek to create a communist dictatorship such as the likes of the self proclaimed communists that are the backbone of these “Occupy” events. My family fought the Nazi’s and the Soviets due to their murderous ways. Is the cult that is socialism, in it’s various forms, so strong that it can sway the hearts and minds of a people, whose ancestors have been murdered by it in the countless millions, to instead embrace it? How could anyone support such horrid evil?

For those who claim the jews run wall street, are the koch brothers jewish? Blankfien? Dimon? Tillerson? There may be a somewhat disproportiote number of jews as heads of corperations or on wall street, but the percentage and influance is way too small to run our countries financial system. I suspect that many anti semetic statements that are seen on the internet are written by right wing conservative agent provocataurs for the purpose of discrediting the OWS movement, and it is not working.

It is interesting that some jewish people are protesting. A bigot might point out that all of the movers and shakers on Wall Street are people of jewish heritage. I'm not sure about that, but I am confident the people that run Wall St. are having an effect on Washington that is not in 99% of America's best interest. Wall St has made fabulous fortunes for people that has distorted our economy. If Wall St. is honest, they will admit they purchased this affluence in our halls of Congress.

This is wonderful. Now this is what 'light unto the nations' really means!

Demonstrations against individual rights and property rights seem to be the only common thread at "Occupy Wall St". While I support their right to protest, these rights are what keeps Jews safe in the US, and these protesters are not our friends.

Protester to Jewish man "go back to Israel".

"The Jews control Wall St"

It is also drawing the anti-Semites who are complaining that Jews control all the money and it is going back to Israel.

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