Protest and Prayer Rise In Lower Manhattan
In Egypt, a young woman’s voice calling for those who loved her to keep her alive invigorated the thousands who came to protest in Tahrir Square. The fiery immolation of a desperate seller of vegetables gave rise to the Libyan revolt. In Tel Aviv, and cities throughout Israel, almost a half million took to the streets to demonstrate for change. In Zucotti Park (“Wall Street”) in Manhattan, Dewey Square in Boston, near City Hall in Philadelphia and at City Hall in Los Angeles, Albuquerque, New Mexico and a growing number of American cities, thousands are gathering to seek social justice and reform.
From a group that numbered twenty or thirty three weeks ago, thousands have come to protest against economic injustice in Manhattan and cities across America. Friday night, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, Jews throughout the world will prayer for forgiveness, to fast, refrain from physical pleasures, and ask forgiveness of their sins. On the “Street,” hundreds will join their landsmen in prayer.
“It’s as serious as any Yom Kippur service in the city,” said Jeanette Friedman. “What good is the fast if you don’t care for the widows and orphans, the people who have nothing?….You have to care about your neighbor, because he is like you.” Friedman will bring with her a sefer Torah, loaned on condition of anonymity, to the “bimah.”
The service, termed “traditional egalitarian,” will be in English and Hebrew and led by Rabbis from Conservative, Reform and Orthodox streams of Judaism. The Rabbinical Assembly for Conservative Judaism has loaned 100 Yom Kippur machzorim and downloadable PDF versions are available on the Internet. No musical instruments or amplification will be used. Participants have been asked not to take video or photographs and to discourage others from photographing.
The ritual of kapparot donations as tzedakah to the Occupy Wall Street movement was conducted until 6PM. Saturday, open services at the Battery Park Synagogue, Chabad of Wall Street, the Javitz Convention Center and with Ohel Ayalah throughout the city are available.
Warning has been said that the protest is “a decentralized action and an act of civil disobedience,” and participants are cautioned that “Though it is highly unlikely, participants nonetheless risk the possibility of arrest….We request that you be respectful towards the police at all times.” According to Commissioner Ray Kelly, more than 2 million dollars have been spent by the NYPD in overtime expenses since the protests began. Kelly warned that while most of the protesters have been peaceful, “physical force would be used” should it be required.
This is the third week of the rallies, and organizers are developing contingency plans to continue a protest presence even as winter begins. The financial industry is the main focus. Thousands are in the street and the effort now has the support of major union organizations.
Some have questioned the involvement of Jewish ritual in a scene of civic action. “The right to practice one’s religion in any circumstance has nothing to do with government,” said one of the organizers. “We are not asking the government to get involved. Rather, this is religion making a statement about humanity – about the basic Judeo-Christian ethic on which America is built.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told an interviewer for Politico “God bless them for their spontaneity. It’s young, it’s spontaneous, it’s focused and it’s going to be effective.”