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1,000 Jews gather at Wall St. for #occupy-yomkippur Kol Nidre

When new media activist Daniel Sieradski, a.k.a. the Orthodox Anarchist, a.k.a. @mobius1ski , suggested having an ad hoc Kol Nidre minyan on Wall Street, in solidarity with the Occupied Wall Street movement, he wondered if he would succeed in attracting 20 participants (an egalitarian minyan of 10 men and 10 women).

To his amazement, over 1,000 Jews of all ages and backgrounds, from secular to observant, showed up for an exhilarating experience which, judging from the tweets (hashtag: #OccupyYomKippur), had many people feeling as though they were practically levitating. Several friends told me it was an incredibly moving experience.

Kol Nidre on Wall Street (photo: Damon Dahlen / AOL)

@Mefranny: Mom, I think I just had the most meaningful Jewish experience of my life. Wish you were with me.

@newyorkobserver: Best. Atonement. Ever.

@mikrmoore: Prayed kol nidre with hundreds tonite at #occupywallstreet. Incredibly moving experience. Congrats again to@mobius1ski for pulling it off.

@maxblumenthal Hundreds of Jews declare in unison at #occupaywallstreet “We will hold ourselves accountable for the occupation of Palestine. Aleinu!”

@aimeeweiss #OccupyYomKippur at #occcupywallstreet #ows was simply awe-inspiring. Kol hakavod to @mobius1ski et al. Can’t wait for Sukkot.

@aimeeweiss also tweeted a photo of the supplemental ‘al kheit,’ the traditional confession of sins for which we try to atone by praying and fasting on Yom Kippur. The sins listed on the #occupyyomkippur ‘al kheit’ include, ‘being cynical about repairing the world,’ ‘not defending Israel’ and ‘not defending Palestine.’

Supplementary 'al kheit' for Occupy Wall Street Kol Nidre (photo: @aimeeweiss / Twitter)

@aimeeweiss also uploaded a short video clip of the singing at the Kol Nidre service. Even in these few seconds, one can sense the spiritual and communal warmth of this gathering.

UPDATE: Another video, posted on YouTube, shows spontaneous dancing on the street after the Kol Nidre service ended:

UPDATE 2: George ‘Getzel’ Davis posted the sermon he read at #OccupyYomKippur on his Facebook page. Here is the text:

Friends – we are here tonight to celebrate the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur has been misunderstood to be a sad day.  But really, an early rabbinic texts calls Yom Kippur one of the two happiest days of the year. What makes this day happy?  It is the day of forgiveness.   This is what Yom Kippor means “The Day of Forgiveness.”

According to our myth, Yom Kippur is the day that we are forgiven for worshipping the golden calf.    What is the golden calf?  It is the essence of idol worship.   It the fallacy that gold is God.   How do we become forgiven for worshiping gold?

I believe that G!d is infinitely forgiving.  The harder question is how we forgive ourselves.   How can we forgive ourselves for failing to live up to our own ideals? How can we forgive ourselves for failing to recognize others’ humanity? How can we forgive ourselves for remaining silent for so long in the face of injustice?

Forgiveness is important because once we can mourn our mistakes then we are no longer ruled by them.  We are free to create things anew.

This is what Kol Nidreh is about.  It is releasing ourselves from the oaths that we mistakenly took.

When people think about oaths, they usually think of verbal promises.   In Judaism though, most of our oaths are “Chazakas” – or oaths taken through repeated action.   By doing things again and again, we make internal promises about how we want to live.   Other names for these might be habits, preferences, or addictions. These chazakas  rule our lives, making things simpler by allowing us to live on autopilot .

The problem with this is that while chazakas are easy, they are often not skillful.   It is easier to not make waves.  It is easier to not make eye contact with those suffering.  It is easier to trust others to run society.  It is easier to sit on our butts.

Tonight, you are offered all the internal freedom that you can imagine.   How do you want to live the next moments of your life?   Do you want to love more?  Do you want to be more joyous?  Do you want to speak your truth? What does your truth say?

Yom Kippur is the happiest day of the year because it gives us the radical option of being here now.   We don’t work.  We don’t eat.  We don’t drink.  We don’t have sex.  We dress in white robes.

We do these things because Yom Kippur is a ritual death.   It is the way that we allow our old selves to die.

Tomorrow, when we break our fasts, we step into newness.   We step into being the people we want to be and not just the people we have been.

You know friends, it is hard not to worship gold, or power, or any of the other idols that our society shoves down our throats.  I believe that this is why the Torah tells us that there is something else created in the image of G!d.

Us.

In the first chapter of Genesis the first human was created in the image of G!d  If we need something to serve here on earth, we are given humanity.   Service to humankind is sacred and a reflection of service of G!d.

This is the reason why we pray the Aleinu.  Aleinu means “On us,” and is our affirmation that it is our job to change the world.   Tonight, we will pray the Aleinu in an unconventional way.  One at a time, someone will call out a commitment: a new commitment that they want to take on to fix the world.  If you also want to take this on, respond by saying “Aleinu.”

Extraordinary.

Could this be a renaissance of  a new movement, composed of Jews who are proudly identified with their community and progressive on all issues – including Palestine, the once-great taboo?

Read more about #occupyyomkippur on

The Huffington Post (including a set of beautiful photographs)

The Daily Kos

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Danya

      I find this incredibly inspiring and moving. I am so happy that Jews gathered to share this religious and social experience together. After many years in Israel, American Judaism still speaks to me so much stronger.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ziva Kwitney

      I wish I could have been there. I was there in spirit, and terribly moved by this groundbreaking
      fusion of spirit and political action.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Perpetual Refugee

      I hope their prayers reach the Middle East. We could use it, regardless of denomination.

      Reply to Comment
    4. i f

      WOW

      Reply to Comment
    5. Richard Allen

      I was there, and it really went very far towards restoring my faith in what I was told as a child that being Jewish is all about. The sense of community was palpable.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Scott

      Switch “Jews” for “Muslims” and “Yom Kippur” for “Ramadan” and I highly doubt 972mag.com, the New York Observer, or other media outlets cover this story as a positive and moving community event.

      Everyone knows it’s true. And this is coming from a Jew.

      Reply to Comment
    7. This is coming from you, Scott. It’s not truth; it’s your opinion. I don’t agree.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Scott

      Of course it’s my opinion and quite possibly the opinion of others.

      I’m not trying to be Debbie Downer and “ruin” the mood of your warm human interest piece. I’m simply offering a different viewpoint.

      You don’t have to address it, but you don’t think people would be [foolishly and unjustly] fearful, cautious, or somewhat skeptical (rather than joyous and commemorative) if a similarly spiritual Islamic scene occurred in the same location?

      Reply to Comment
    9. Nope.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Miriam

      Thanks Scott for yr significant and singular comment.
      Of course it’s absolutely true…in fact were 1000 Muslim Americans to show up at OWS to make salat it likely would have been negatively characterized on Fox as “Mooz-lems taking over”.!

      Frankly I am at a loss to understand first: the concept of an Orthodox Jewish Anarchist….why could he not be just an “anarchist”? why does everyone see the be a hyphenated Jew.? whether one is secular, agnostic, socialist, buddhist, etc. Makes no sense….
      Second: why “secular to observant” would express the confessional on the streets of NYC….if they observant…….and espec if they are secular?!
      Glad that you presented your opinion/your truth….i certainly agree…and that is what “comment sections” are for sharing our own truth/perspective not only agreeing with bloggers.

      Reply to Comment
    11. RichardNYC

      Nice…though its a shame that these folks and 972 are playing up some kind of association between Occupy Wall Street and the Palestinian cause. It would be more considerate to the protesters, and the 99% not make everything about Palestine and sabotage an otherwise sympathetic cause. I’m sure that even the die-hards understand that most Americans do not see Palestine as a populist issue.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Alan

      I consider it significant and redeeming that the al cheit from the event lists “Not defending Palestine” and “Not defending Israel” coequally in our sins.

      Max Blumenthal and others who keep pushing the only-Palestine line have nothing to teach us compared to these fine Occupy Yom Kippur pray-er protesters.

      Reply to Comment
    13. David

      Amayn.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Perpetual Refugee

      The article was’t about ‘Mooz-lems’, nor was it about Fox.
      It was however about a single event that reflected a convergence of faith and hope. To assume that Lisa or others would not hsve given it the same weight if it were another ethnicity is absurd.

      As a Middle Easterner not of the Jewish faith, I commend Ms. Goldman for her efforts in showing the human side.

      Reply to Comment
    15. I am inclined to agree with Scott.I am at loss to understand the significance of joing the protest as “JEWS”and not as American citizans. Perhaps there was loads of Muslims,Hindus ,Buddists among the protesters but they did not single themselves out according to their religion but rather to their disgust at their sorry lot in the land of plenty for the 1%.This need to play the good Samaritan in a street so financially dominated by Jews seems a little confusing and incongruous to me

      Reply to Comment
    16. I am inclined to agree with Scott.I find it strange that people would join the protest as Jews rather than as American citizens.There must have been plenty of Buddists,Muslims,Hindus among the protesters who didn’t play the good Samaritan by joing the protest as a religious group but rather as miserable Americans tired of being the victims of the 1%.I find it strange and rather incongruous that these protesters should be singled out for notice
      when Wall Street is so finalially dominated by Jews!!!

      Reply to Comment
    17. @Scott – it’s clear you came to this article from an outside link, and have no actual experience with the nature of reportage on 972 Magazine. For if you did, you’d realize the folly of your comments. Of course, you might not really care, given that your singular purpose seems to be a divisive one. Regardless, know this: 972 magazine is the last place such charges should be levied.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Bryan

      @Edith:

      1) They joined the protest as people. However, because it was Yom Kippur, which is a day of atonement on the individual, community, and universal levels, they decided to observe the day and the protest as Jews. The traditional readings from the day, emphasize social justice, including the haftara: “This is the fast I desire: To unlock the fetters of wickedness, And untie the cords of the yoke
      To let the oppressed go free; To break off every yoke. It is to share your bread with the hungry, And to take the wretched poor into your home; When you see the naked, to clothe him.” (Isaiah 58:6-7)

      2) Not sure what you mean by other groups not “playing the good Samaritan”. I assume you’re referencing the Christian parable, but don’t get the context of your statement.

      3) You end your statement with an anti-Semitic trope/canard. Maybe that is precisely why the Jews want to support the protest as Jews; the community is usually blamed for a whole assortment of contradictory crimes (being too capitalist, being too communist; being too assimilationist; being too unassimilable; too clannish, too universalist; etc.)

      Reply to Comment
    19. RichardNYC

      @EVERYONE
      “I find it strange and rather incongruous that these protesters should be singled out for notice
      when Wall Street is so finalially dominated by Jews!!!”
      –> I’m sure Edith only said this because the worshipers had not adequately defended Palestine.

      Reply to Comment
    20. Sylvia

      “Could this be a renaissance of a new movement, composed of Jews who are proudly identified with their community and progressive on all issues – including Palestine”
      That has crossed my mind. We could be witnessing the birth of yet another Ashkenazic sect, some kind of splinter from Reconstructionism. They already have the “Rabbis Fasting for Gaza”, the humbling principles of “Repair the World” and “Save the Jews from themselves”. They could decree the Fast for Gaza on Tisha beAv, and on that day wail for Palestine, beat the culp on Yom Kippur for the “Nakba”, and have matza balls in remembrance of the Exodus from Palestine in 48.
      That wouldn’t surprise me at all. If Unesco has appropriated the Rambam for Islam, and turned him Muslim post-mortem, anything is possible.

      Reply to Comment
    21. Laura Goodwin Kabel

      I am not even Jewish and I was moved and invigorated just by seeing this.

      Reply to Comment
    22. Sylvia

      “when Wall Street is so finalially dominated by Jews!!!”
      and you can be sure that whoever slipped the idea of conducting prayer there in that guy’s head had exactly that idea in mind. Confirm the stereotype.

      Reply to Comment
    23. Djank

      this not about region, or religion..
      this not about USA or Palestine
      this not about whos the strongest and whos the weakest
      this not about white, black, yellow, brown or red
      this not about who won or who lose
      this about you…
      me…
      and all…

      this about humanity and justice
      this about future
      OUR FUTURE!!!
      NOT ONLY AMERICA!!!
      but
      WORLD FUTURE!!!

      they think we don’t know what their doing…
      robbing us with system…
      manipulate us with conservative media…
      fool us with entertainment…
      while their feet on top our head
      while they enjoying a $1000 breakfast, there’s a thousand child hunger in africa

      The real terrorist is not mujahidin, taliban or al-qaeda
      they only manipulate us for maintain a war
      too sell weapon, rob oil and giving debt
      The real terrorist is there the 1%
      BUT WE CAN FIGHT IT, IF WE STAND TOGETHER SIDE BY SIDE
      CAUSE WE 99%!!!

      DJANK
      (im one of Indonesian moslem who support for this movement, im really sorry i cant go there cause i cant afford the journey, but my heart support from here)
      ps: Indonesia is a land of many mining resources, gas or oil… unfortunately they plant corrupt goverment to protect the 1%, and the shitty thing is from the richness of our country they only gave us 1% from their income. Now Indonesia is a land for corruptor.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Burt Zerka

      Comment deleted by moderator.

      Reply to Comment
    25. Burt Zerka

      Deleted by moderator.

      Reply to Comment
    26. AYLA

      @SCOTT wrote, “you don’t think people would be [foolishly and unjustly] fearful, cautious, or somewhat skeptical (rather than joyous and commemorative) if a similarly spiritual Islamic scene occurred in the same location?”

      No. Not in my New York City. Had there been an Eid meal to end ramadan (or any spiritually oriented event), it would have been celebrated and shared, even pridefully by others. I hope this theory gets tested. @Miriam, as for Fox News: Whatever. How they get away with calling that news in the U.S. I have yet to understand.

      Reply to Comment
    27. AYLA

      @DJANK–thank you for your beautiful sharing.

      Reply to Comment
    28. AYLA

      @PERPETUAL REFUGEE, thank you. Beautifully put. (hadn’t read all the comments when I first responded; catching up).

      Reply to Comment
    29. Hi -

      This was a wondrous happening! I wish I could have been there. I did spread the word. Just one point – an egalitarian minyan would be 5 men and 5 women, all being counted as making up the minyan. 10 men and 10 women basically means that the men count as the minyan; the women are there but they’re not actually being counted as making up the minyan.

      Reply to Comment
    30. Howard Patterson

      I belong to Havurah Shalom, the Reconstructionist congregation in Portland, Oregon, to which Judy and Stew belonged, where they wrote their Al Cheit, and where they read it at Yom Kippur every year until Stew’s death. We told Judy we would read it at OccupyPortland – about 20 of us went down, to find a dozen members of P’Nai Or, the Renewal congregation, already there with the same idea. We sang Ma Tovu, blessing the tents; P’Nai Or wanted to read the day’s selection from Jeremiah (is this the fast I want, sitting in sack cloth and ashes while you ignore the hungry and strike with an angry fist?), then we read the Al Cheit.

      It was thrilling to contribute to the effort with our spiritual selves, as well as marching, Legal Observing, and bringing food and supplies. Unity doesn’t mean “all being the same”, it means “all being the most who we are we can be, and all being of one purpose.”

      Getzel’s sermon was beautiful, thank you very much for posting it.

      Reply to Comment
    31. Hi Sharon,

      Sieradski tweeted that an egalitarian minyan would be 10 men and 10 women, according to his definition; and that he would not begin services unless at least 10 men and 10 women were present.

      Reply to Comment
    32. Bosko

      @Lisa Goldman
      I am posting this hear rather than on that other blog of yours so you can’t accuse me of being insensitive to your suffering friend. You have a thin skin. You can dish criticism but you can’t take it.

      Reply to Comment
    33. Bosko

      Errata: The word ‘hear’ in my above post should have been ‘here’. Accidental mis-spelling.

      Reply to Comment
    34. Ragfish

      Sins against our neighbors, our nation and the environment pales beside our transgressions against the laws of nature and nature’s G-d! Are we creating idolatrous god with our own hands out of our human sense of social justice? In the beginning, G-d created and we Jews are now so far removed from His redemptive plan, that only His sovereign hand of grace and mercy can restore Israel and the world to as it was in the beginning. While we are drawn together by seemingly noble causes, we must keep our eyes open for whom we are serving.
      We are attempting to sanctify that which is profane, the ultimate blasphemy. Look around at the SEIU, union thugs and the goals of Stephen Lerner, which are to tear down the governmental and economic institutions of our nation, trading national sovereignty and capitalism for anarchy to be followed by another Marxist dystopia!

      Reply to Comment
    35. Bosko

      @Lisa Goldman
      And another thing. It seems to me you are always outraged about something. If it’s not what Israel does, then you are outraged at what those of us who support Israel say. Yet you never seem to be outraged about what some Arabs do or don’t do. At most, you may be slightly embarrassed, not so much about their actions/inactions but rather you are embarrassed if some of us dare to talk about it.

      Reply to Comment
    36. YetanotherSmith

      I’m not Jewish. Not that political. I find the list of sins though to be inspiring. Everyone in the world is responsible for the mess we’re in and together we can make things right.

      I hope this takes off! I hope they take it seriously.

      God bless.

      Reply to Comment
    37. annie

      a beautiful post, thanks so much. on another note i cannot understand the cynical nature of sylvia “and you can be sure that whoever slipped the idea of conducting prayer there in that guy’s head had exactly that idea in mind,” referencing ““when Wall Street is so finalially dominated by Jews!!!”” there are lots of jews in nyc so naturally they would be participating in OWS and it fell on the holidays so why wouldn’t they bring their holiday to OWS? it makes perfect beautiful sense.

      ….

      i have witnessed many times in these discussions accusations jewish activists here in the US are not religious or are not really jewish or ‘real jews’ which is stupid and frankly anti semitic. i know lots of jewish peace activists who participate in religious activities but it’s nobodies business and they shouldn’t have to advertise it. so this should not be surprising in the least to see progressive activists jews participating in their religion on Yom Kippur. it was just a coincidence the OWS landed on the day and exposed the ‘shocking’ sight of jews practicing their religion! and so beautiful it was.

      Reply to Comment
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