Category Archives: lefties

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.

Bad Motherfucka

“Go in that bag and find my wallet. It’s the one that says ‘Bad Muthafucka’ on it.”

Pulp Fiction

From whiplash (Osama’s dead!) to backlash (How dare you celebrate?), I counted about 30 seconds. It’s a bit exhausting. Sure, the jingoistic “America, fuck yeah!” nonsense is annoying, but so is people being pious about how all murder is always bad. I’m a vegetarian who doesn’t support the death penalty. That doesn’t mean I’m going to pause and mourn the end of a killer.

Maybe I’ve just been watching too many action movies, or maybe it’s all the Game of Thrones I’ve been reading (I’m on Book 3 and I’ve counted about 2,300 corpses and 657 rapes). Maybe I’m desensitized.  Or maybe, as the Onion puts it:

I’m going to devote my energy to wondering how this will affect Barry O, newly President Bad Motherfucka.

Blue state boyfriend Nate Silver addresses the issue here.

Seems to me it helps Obama that Osama wasn’t captured and brought to trial: that helps him break out of the detached intellectual stereotype. I mean, even Rush Limbaugh took five seconds off today from his usual habit offending all decent people to say, “Thank God for President Obama.”

This makes me think I’m not alone in admiring the way Obama made this happen. There was good intelligence and more good intelligence; there was thinking and planning and THEN targeted, specific, successful action. If our wars had been considered along those lines, they would be going a hell of a lot better than they are now — or, even better, they would never have been embarked on at all.

My brother points out that, in an ideal world, perhaps this raid would have happened in October 2012. You know Karl Rove would have arranged that if he could. But one can’t have everything.

{Hilarious gifs and images compiled by the folks at Ranker.}

In the style of Whitman

Monday night I attended the birthday bash of an elderly, illustrious folk singer and lion of the left. While there, I met both an author I respect (I gave her my best wishes) and a younger folk singer who I’ve seen perform at least twice. I felt I should give her my best wishes too, since I was being all sociable.

“Folkie!” she cried, when I introduced myself and explained where I had seen her play. She threw her arm around me and steered me towards her crew of intimidating Brooklyn hipsters and queers. “Look, everyone! She’s one of us!”

The crew eyed me. “Where do you live?” someone asked.

“Brooklyn,” I answered.

The interrogator smiled as though to say that that much one could assume. “Where in Brooklyn?” she asked.

Barely Brooklyn. Brownstone Brooklyn. The Heights. There was nothing to it but to admit the truth, and I put it as baldly as possible: “Montague Street.”

Their “Oh” was eloquent. Having proven myself utterly uncool, I managed to escape.

Later in the evening, however, as I returned from the bathroom, I ran straight into them. There they all were, piled carelessly upon each other in the hallway like the cool girls at a bat mitzvah. The folk singer appeared, still happy with wine, and clasped me to her again.

“Ester!” she said. “Where did go to college?”

“Swarthmore,” said I.

“Swarthmore! That’s wonderful! See, I told you she was one of us.” She smiled broadly at her crew. “And what do you do, Swarthmore? You’re not afflicted with music, I hope?”

“No, but I do write some,” said I.

“Marvelous! What do you write?”

“Stories, poems …”

“Write a poem for us now!” cried the folk singer. “About that wall, there.”

I stared at the wall which was papered a bright, coppery orange. God help me, I thought. My head was empty. The crew was watching.

“Do it in the style of Whitman,” someone suggested, giving me more rope.

“Ego, splashed against a wall,” I said promptly.

They hooted with appreciation. “Mary Oliver!” called someone else.

“Birds against a burning sunset.”


“The heart beating lonely by reflecting waters.”

Anne Sexton!”

“The birth and the afterbirth together.”

This time they screamed, and I had passed their test. With all due apologies to Whitman, Oliver, Thoreau, and Sexton, of course.