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Occupy Wall Street and Anti-Semitism

We’ve been keeping an eye on the discussion of anti-Semitism which swirls on the margins of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) zeitgeist, which now of course is a huge national happening, in cities coast to coast including here in Los Angeles.

This movement, which The New York Times recently called “an ad hoc Athenian democracy”, stirs one of the ugliest (and may I say craziest?) stereotypes about Jewish people: that we are all rich, and somehow mysteriously control the world’s wealth.

Don’t get me started. This is a deep, deep current of the weirdest form of hate which has run through the reptile-brain of the world for many centuries. Like all hate, it is primitive, irrational and violent, and is the basis for acts which are nothing less than evil.

This stereotype has never gone away. And it seems to surface when people are hungry, and hurting, which many people are in America—not to mention the rest of the world.

But we take joy in the tolerant, informed, generous and fearless Jewish response. In New York City, there has been dancing, Torah, and Yiddishkeit galore as part of the wonderfully raggle-taggle OWS encampment. A sukkah has just been created there, and the Jewish mother in me worries. It’s cold in NYC at night now.

Some of this has to do with timing. The OWS movement launched more or less in synch with the High Holy Days. For those of us who contemplate such things in this context, the coincidence of OWS and Yom Kippur seemed an opportunity for the entire world to atone. Whether or not this Atonement took place, and will result in greater mitzvot, and the Tikkun Olam, remain to be seen.

More than timing, it has to do with culture. “Justice for all” is an American value, and it is also a deeply Jewish value. Social action and community service, in the service of social justice, find their roots both in the Torah and in every aspect of Jewish secular life.

Because the OWS stance is one of inclusion, the movement chooses to tolerate anti-Semites and anti-Zionists who love to be interviewed and photographed as they make inflammatory remarks.
As the Jewish New Year unfolds, let’s hope together that the soulful sounds of the singing, laughter and klezmer-violins will continue to rise high above the stupidity of a few haters.

*Image from New York Times

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