Dispatch: Yom Kippur at Occupy Wall Street

By | October 10th, 2011 | No Comments
OWS Kol Nidre

More than a 1,000 people gathered amid the Occupy Wall Street protest to observe Yom Kippur Friday night. -- photo by Damon Dahlen for AOL

Arielle Angel is a Miami-born, Brooklyn-based writer and artist. This piece originally appeared as a blog post on ketuv.com, a boutique for limited-edition and custom fine art Jewish marriage contracts by contemporary artists.

Though I would feel somewhat incomplete if I did not observe the Jewish holidays, I usually prefer to do so at home, in my own private way. The high cost of tickets around the holy days, paired with my inability to find a service that fits just right, has left me fasting at home, alone in my bed, year after year. It goes without saying, I think, that I feel the loss of community in this method of observance, but it has always felt preferable to standing awkwardly in a service that does more to alienate me from my fellow Jews than bring me closer.

This Yom Kippur was different. On Friday night, for the Kol Nidre service, I stood with more than 1,000 Jews of all ages and denominations, and we lent our voices to the Occupy Wall Street protest. Held across the street from Zuccotti Park, Occupy Wall Street’s claimed territory, the event was organized by Jewish activist Daniel Sieradski and promoted largely via social media. On his blog, Sieradski introduced the event with a quote by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel:

Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive, unless it seeks to overthrow and to ruin the pyramids of callousness, hatred, opportunism, falsehoods. The liturgical movement must become a revolutionary movement, seeking to overthrow the forces that continue to destroy the promise, the hope, the vision.

Though the event itself was unaffiliated, the machzors (prayer books) were donated by the Rabbinical Assembly (the Conservative movement’s organizing body) and, in many respects, it was a traditional service. Although there weren’t enough machzors to go around, some of the most powerful moments were when we didn’t need the text to join in — the music and the lyrics embedded somewhere deep in our (collective?) consciousness, as illustrated in this short video.

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Two weeks in India with a flashlight

By | March 16th, 2011 | No Comments

Women of the Ranai village scope out their new solar-powered flashlights.

In this post, Ximena Prugue recaps her two-week trip with fellow MDC student Stephany Torres to India to introduce solar-powered lighting to India’s rural poor. Check out our Feb. 16 post for more background on the Giving The Green Light project.

After months of planning, vaccinations, visa applications, and a series of stresses, it finally hit me: We’re in India. Staring out the window of our taxi in the early morning, I fought the urge to scream and stomp my feet like an excited child. In the streets, there was chaos: reckless drivers, loud horns, suicidal pedestrians, women in bright saris, hand-painted buses, motorcycles, bicyclists, abandoned cows, water buffalos, auto rickshaws, tiny sedans, and beautifully painted trucks, all set against the dusty streets of India.

Stephany and I spent a lot of time riding in the car through Delhi. We saw slums that looked like small villages crammed into the vacant spaces of the city. Even the smallest nooks were occupied by a vendor stand, and laundry hung from the most unlikely places.

On the first day, we bought our oh-so-cheap wardrobe so we would fit in a little better. We spent the next three days visiting the Lotus temple, Humayan’s tomb, Lodhi Gardens, Qutb Minar, and numerous other landmarks. On Sunday, we drove three bumpy hours to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort, which were both breathtaking. The Taj Mahal was built as an act of love, an incomprehensible notion in a world where chivalry is pretty much dead.

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Dispatch from Jhabua: Village Life in Ranai

By | March 4th, 2011 | No Comments

Prugue's view while delivering the solar-powered gospel to the Korku tribe in Ranai.

This is MDC student Ximena Prugue’s second dispatch from India, where she aims to introduce cheap solar-powered lights to the subcontinent’s rural poor. Check out our Feb. 16 post for more background on Prugue’s Giving The Green Light project.

I just arrived at the house where the members of the Real Medicine Foundation live in Jhabua. The past couple of days we spent in Khandwa, another district in Madhya Pradesh. We distributed the flashlights to the Ranai village in Khandwa. We actually sold the lights to the villagers at 100 rupees, which is about two dollars, but the money went into a village fund that will be used for any projects they would vote on. We held a village meeting with the Korku tribe to introduce ourselves and discuss their biggest challenges and concerns. The two main problems were 1) Electricity at night so their children can study more, and 2) Access to toilets. Almost everyone in the rural areas, or any poor areas of India, including slums, defecates in the open. It’s funny how when we asked where they had toilets in the village, everyone knows EXACTLY where they are because there are only about three of them for a village of 5,000 people. When I say toilet, I actually mean just a concrete 4×4 room that has a hole in one of the walls. It’s not even a hole in the floor.

We stayed the night in the village of Raina to distribute the lights and get a feel for village life at night. Everything is pretty much pitch-black, except for the village leader’s house, which has electricity from 9 to 11 p.m. every other day. They actually only get enough kerosene to fuel a lamp for two weeks each month. So two weeks out of the month, they can’t do anything after sundown. They also wake up at about 4 a.m. to start doing housework and working on their crops.

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Dispatch from Delhi: Coke and other Sacred Cows

By | February 28th, 2011 | No Comments

If you read “Miamians Bound for India with a Solar Torch” (Feb. 16), you know MDC students Ximena Prugue and Stephany Torres flew to the subcontinent Wednesday on a mission to introduce cheap solar-powered lighting to Jhabua, a rural village in Madhya Pradesh, as part of their Giving The Green Light project. Prugue emailed us a few early observations and this photo from her hotel in Delhi before checking out and heading to Khandwa.

The moment we stepped out of the airport, the pollution in the air was overwhelming. We can feel our lungs putting effort when we breathe (and this might sound gross, but every time I blow my nose, the tissue is BLACK). What I do love about India is the array of colors. Everyone from wealthy to poor wears very bright colors, which contrasts the dirt all around. The only grass you will find in Delhi is in the tourist attractions, such as Lodhi Gardens and Humayun’s Tomb. I was surprised at the amount of Indians that visit their own tourist attractions, unlike back home. Many people who have grown up in Miami have yet to visit Vizcaya, but in India, it is very common to hang out in the Lodhi Gardens or even the Taj Mahal in Agra.

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Dispatch from NY: Longing for the warmth of winter

By | February 15th, 2011 | 11 Comments

As a Miami native who lives up north, I’ve developed a bad habit. When outdoor life becomes unbearable — when the wind-chill factor knocks the temperature into the negatives, or when a full week of slush awaits — I just can’t help it: I check the weather in Miami.

It’s an irresistible kind of self-torture, like clicking through Facebook pictures of your ex and his new flame. At this distance and reduced to these terms, Miami seems like the best thing you ever had, and you curse yourself and the mistake you made in moving on.

This was the weather in Miami last week:

The sun and the moon, alternating in perfect harmony. Zero snow. Zero rain. Warm, breezy days into cool, comfortable nights.

Simultaneously, the weather in New York:

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