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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