Commotion surrounds a man holding a large sign that proclaims, “Google: Zionists control Wall St.” To his right, another man holds a sign that displays the word “ASSHOLE,” accompanied by an arrow pointing at the first man. Several more people are standing near him devoting their energy to telling passersby that the first man is indeed an asshole and that he does not represent the rest of the 99%-ers residing in the park.
“Don’t take pictures of him!” one man is shouting. “All he wants is for you to take his picture.”
“That’s right! All I want is for you to take my picture!” the man shouts at the crowd, several of whom (including myself) are taking pictures of him.
As Mik Moore (who happens to be a former New Voices Magzine editor and is a current member of our board) pointed out on Jewschool today, there has been an attempt from the right to delegitimize the Wall Street protests by claiming that they’re anti-Semitic.
But that charge is wrong and it’s not going to stick.
For one thing, this guy with the sign is it; this goofball is the entire anti-Semite community of the Occupy Wall Street protest. He’s not a slick well-moneyed anti-Semite like the Henry Fords of yesteryear. He’s scruffy and it doesn’t seem like he’s all there mentally.
More important than the sparse population of anti-Semites is the thick populations of Jews; there are a lot of Jews there. Never mind the 1,000 or so Jews who spent the evening of Yom Kippur holding a full Kol Nidrei service across the street from Zuccotti Park. Never mind the Jews in Philly, Boston and DC who did the same. And never mind the plans to set up a sukkah this evening at the protest here in New York, as well as in LA, Atlanta, DC, Philly and Boston. Aside from that, there are just plenty of Jews down there.
This is exactly the kind of social justice issue and progressive movement that American Jewish life has long sought to associate itself with. The fact that there are Jews involved and that my generation of Jews is excited about the protests feels only natural.
This afternoon I went down to the protest to grab some lunch (there is still a horde of falafel trucks down there, as there are year-round) and show a friend around who hadn’t yet seen the spectacle of Occupy Wall Street. While we were there, two Chabad guys asked me if I’d put on tefilin yet today (“I haven’t and I don’t plan to, but thanks”) and if I’d like some information about sukkot (“I already bought a lulav and etrog, so I’m good to go”). We also saw a couple of kippot among the throng and one hippie-looking guy with a beard and a nearly floor-length tunic with tzitzit affixed to its corners.
So the Jews of this generation, I’m forced to conclude, are with the 99%.