Last Friday the Pursue office was rather quiet. Several staffers worked from home or were out traveling to spend Yom Kippur with family. We didn’t turn on the overhead lights while we worked, and instead worked by natural light coming through the windows of our office. As the time drew near the end of our short work day, updates and posts continued to pop up over Facebook about Kol Nidre Service at Occupy Wall Street. As the sun descended, a reported 500-700 Jews gathered in front of the Brown Brothers Harriman building for a candlelit, social justice focused Kol Nidre services in New York City. Since Friday evening articles, posts, and videos have been published.
Boston, one of the cities that have joined the Occupy Movement, also held Kol Nidre service on Friday evening. Jocelyn Berger, former Bay Area Program Officer for Pursue, wrote her reflections on Yom Kippur, social justice, and Occupy Boston:
“What do Yom Kippur and the Occupy Wall Street movement have in common? Both are about imagination. On Yom Kippur we imagine that a better self is possible. At Occupy Boston, we imagine that a better country, a better world, is possible. And although these are individual imaginings, we come together in community to make them collectively realized. By moving Yom Kippur from a sequestered, individualized experience in a synagogue out into the public square (literally!), we transform the purpose of the holiday from simply imagining a better self to imagining an whole better world.
Undeniably, one of the most exciting things about this movement is how democratic and collective it is. This rang especially true as we recited the Sh’ma together at our Kol Nidre service, proclaiming oneness – of our voices, of our values, of our aspirations, of Hashem, all one and the same, unified. My emotional climax occurred during the Al Chet – we invited folks to call out sins, personal, political, economic, social, all repeated through “the people’s mic,” adding even greater resonance: “Racism. Turning our backs on the old. Turning our backs on the young. Climate change. Defunding women’s health programs. Putting profits before people (aka capitalism). Citizen’s United. Private health care. Eroding the social safety net. Blaming victims. Katrina. Sexism. Homophobia. Anti-Semitism. Islamophobia. High interest rates. Student loans. Unemployment. Not taking responsibility sooner. Not speaking out sooner. Not showing up sooner.”