Occupy Kol Nidre

This Friday at 7:00 PM, for the first time, I will join the Occupy Wall Street protesters. In prayer.

Yup! Those over-educated anarchist 99%ers are going to observe the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. They have an objective, which is simple, straightforward, and clear: Put on a Kol Nidre service. Will it be audible? Will it even make sense? I have no idea. Will it be memorable? How could it not be? And that’s what I care about.

A co-worker is considering coming too. I stressed the memorable argument — after all, how many Kol Nidre services will you think back on in your life as distinct, individual events, as opposed to a blurred succession of evenings in shul? But she countered with a question: “Will it be spiritual?”

This is a fair point and it wasn’t anywhere on my list of concerns. I’m not even sure what spiritual means. 13 years of religious school, summers of religious summer camp, thousands of Shabbes dinners, holidays, & bar and bat mitzvahs, a semester of living in Israel, being called “Super Jew” my first year in college until I better learned how to present myself, officially joining a synagogue at 29 with my Jewish husband who I married under a chuppah and everything, and now 2+ years working at a Jewish non-profit — and I still know bupkis about spirituality.

Frankly, I’m okay with that.

My boss bemoaned the fact that her teenage son wasn’t into religion. “Think of it this way,” I told her. “There are only two possibilities for a 16 year old boy: He could either be totally secular, or he could be blowing himself up. So, secular is better.” It made her laugh, and that was part of my intention, but I also kind of meant it. A personal relationship with an entity you conceive of as almighty and infallible and in charge of the universe can be super, in theory. In practice, it tends to make people act in unfortunate ways, like, you know, bringing down the World Trade Center or launching the Crusades.

One of the things I really like about the high holiday liturgy is the emphasis on the community. You didn’t sin this year; we did. So we gather together to ask for forgiveness as a body. After all, maybe you yourself gave blood every month and honored your father and your mother and skipped bacon at brunch. It doesn’t matter much if the guy next to you works as a lobbyist for Goldman Sachs. We’re all in it together, communists and capitalists — frankly, Jews have always excelled at being both — and we’re all culpable.

It hasn’t been said much, except probably by people like David Duke: A lot of those people on Wall Street are members of the tribe. There are many more of us, of course, who are merely suffering through the repercussions. Regardless of whether you work for a bank or are still paying off your college loans to one, this is the time to atone, and we should do it publicly. This isn’t about self-hate, or shame; this is merely the time of the year to say “I’m sorry for what we’ve done” and Z Square is the best place to do it.

Good on Occupy Wall Street for setting this up. This is an agenda I can support.

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