Yom Kippur Reflections 'Occupy' Our Thoughts

By, Sandy Fox
Sandy is a former National Mazkirut member, Machon and Year Course participant, and Tel Yehudah camper, staff member, and most recently, Merakezet

This Yom Kippur, I answered the call of a Facebook event, joining a mass of Jews across the street from the big Occupy Wall Street protest. Organizer Daniel Sieradski hoped for twenty participants at his Occupy Yom Kippur Kol Nidre service, but seriously underestimated his grassroots social networking effort: news sources report that one thousand people came to create community, pray, and show solidarity with the protest movement.

When I arrived at the service, I was overwhelmed by the enormity of the crowd. Other Tel Yehudah alumni were easy to spot, and the whole service felt filled to the brim with camp people from Jewish camps all across the country.

The pluralistic service seemed similar to how Tel Yehudah might do a Yom Kippur service, with many traditions being drawn upon at once. Participants brought their own Machzors, printed copies from the internet, or in my case, davened by reading a PDF on their iPhone. We sat in a gigantic circle around the rabbinical students who beautifully conducted the service. Without a permit, New York City protests and rallies cannot use a sound system, so we were forced to use a wonderful invention: the human microphone. With the human microphone, everyone who can hear the designated speaker has to repeat what he or she says out loud, thus creating a resounding voice. This method was not only effective for beating out the noise of New York traffic, but also made a powerful affect on the sermon. It also served as a community builder – by repeating the speaker’s words, we were coming together in an effort to help everyone hear the messages of social justice that were emphasized that evening.

Yom Kippur is largely about self-reflection – what sins we committed and how we must repent. These themes endured at Occupy Yom Kippur, but the service emphasized the types of sins we commit by not performing acts of Tikkun Olam. A supplement to the traditional Machzor included lines such as,

We have sinned:
By not standing up for ourselves,
By thinking about Jewish values only on holy days, by tolerating global warming, global disease and global poverty,
By being cynical about not repairing the world.

This take on Kol Nidre reminded me that at Tel Yehudah this summer, we, as a camp, engaged in countless conversations on social justice and global issues. Have we acted on these injustices since we unpacked our bags at home in July or August? For some of us, supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement may be our way of achieving our Tikkun Olam goals, while for others, different movements will inspire us to act. But one thing became clear to me at this once in a life time Kol Nidre service: every year, I must reflect not only on the sins I have committed towards friends and family, but towards society and the planet. While it is unlikely that next year there will still be protestors living in Zuccoti Park, it is likely that the world will not be perfect. I hope Occupy Wall Street can inspire everyone to speak up for what they believe in and to act on their values, this year and for years to come. Shana Tovah!

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