Sukkot began last night. Since the 1,000-strong Kol Nidrei service at Occupy Wall Street that kicked off Yom Kippur this year, an Occupy Judaism page has appeared on Facebook. That’s how I found out that Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and Occupy Judaism organizer Daniel Sieradski were planning to erect a sukkah at Zuccotti Park, home base of the protesters.
So I went. The sukkah itself is a pop-up sukkah, a small tent-like thing with roughly the dimensions of a porta-potty. Give that Occupy Wall Street has no permits for structures, Sieradski was going around in the hour before the sukkah went up telling everyone proudly that he thought there would be an altercation with the police. The more he talked about it, the less likely it sounded, but the press bit. There were probably more members of the media present than there were Jews celebrating Sukkot.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the nature of Occupy Wall Street and the nature of the growing use of the DIY method in American Jewish life and why the combination of the two makes perfect sense. As OWS has dragged on and the media have looked for new ways to say something clever about it, they finally seem to have hit on a narrative that makes some sense: The protesters have a general shared complaint about greed and economic inequality, but that’s not the most important shared ethos for the protesters. What’s more important is their approach to decision-making, which is decidedly consensus-based.
A New York Times op-ed on Sunday displayed this pull-quote: “The spirit of the Wall Street protests isn’t pro-government. It’s self-government.”
This generation of Jews has shown a consistent interest in building their own Jewish life, almost from the ground-up, just as the OSW protesters have recreated the protest movement. The involvement of the progressive establishment, including organizations like big labor unions, has been looked upon among the 99%-ers with some suspicion. It’s remarkably similar to the same suspicious way this generation of Jews looks upon the Jewish establishment, including organizations like big synagogues.