Wall Street protest: kosher or racist?

By Nathalie Rothschild, October 19, 2011
Protesters demonstrating in New York's Times Square last weekend

Protesters demonstrating in New York's Times Square last weekend

The anti-corporate Occupy Wall Street movement has been accused of harbouring antisemites. At the same time, a coalition of American Jews is expressing solidarity with the protests taking place around the world.

Occupy Judaism was formed after hundreds attended an outdoor, egalitarian Kol Nidre service in New York City's financial district. And a considerably smaller number gathered around a "pop-up succah" in Zuccotti Park, the Occupy Wall Street protest's epicentre.

Several antisemitic incidents have been reported during the protest in New York, which is now in its fifth week. In addition, the neo-conservative Emergency Committee for Israel produced a television advertisement showing protesters expressing antisemitic sentiments. The clips are interspersed with statements from leading Democrats, including President Barack Obama, expressing sympathy for the protest movement.

In Zuccotti Park, protesters were not given permission to erect tents but, on the first evening of Succot, a group of Occupy Judaism supporters gathered in a pop-up succah tent. Marjorie Dove Kent, the director of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, said she hoped it would inspire other protesters to defy the ban.

After leading the hamotzi blessing for bread, Ms Dove Kent said there was a message that united Succot and the Occupy Wall Street protest: "Succot is a holiday where you build a fragile structure… We're here demonstrating about the fragility of the system."

She stressed that both Succot and the anti-corporate protest were about "Taking note of what we have and what we don't have and how we can lose everything in a moment."

After reading the blessings, challah and cholent were dished out to the 30-odd attendees.

Daniel Sieradsky, a 32-year-old "new media activist" and one of the initiators of Occupy Judaism, decorated the pop-up succah with a poster from Israel's tent protests.

He said: "All over the world, people are speaking up for economic and social justice. We share a heritage with the Israelis, but that's not to say we're not critical of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians."

Placards have been spotted with messages such as "Hitler's Bankers" and "Zionists control Wall St". Some supporters of Occupy Wall Street have encouraged protesters to carry signs saying "Hate not wanted here".

    Last updated: 4:11pm, October 19 2011