Occupy Sukkot – An Expansion of Occupy Wall Street Where Jewish Activism and Civil Disobedience Are Converging

Originally published on Tikkun Daily

On Saturday, over 1,000 Jews gathered for Occupy Yom Kippur in New York City – for a Kol Nidre service held near Zuccotti Park in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street that was simultaneously subversive and transformational.

Fists raised with a lulav! Graphic by Sieradski.

That moment, sparked by media entrepreneur and activist Daniel Sieradski, has given birth to a burgeoning expansion of Occupy Wall Street participation within the Jewish community that is quickly coming to be known as Occupy Judaism thanks, in large part, to the grassroots marketing work of Sieradski.

And the next initiative? Occupy Sukkot.

Already, activists in six cities are preparing to construct a sukkah as part of their local occupation protest: New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Boston and Washington, D.C. However, it is the first one, being organized by Sieradski and a host of social-justice-minded Jews of multiple stripes in New York, that is most-visibly providing a real-time example of the intersect currently occurring between Jewish activism and civil disobedience. Sieradski writes of the pop-up sukkah activists plan to construct this afternoon:

This is a protest action. We do not have a permit for our sukkah. We expect confrontation with the NYPD and cannot guarantee our sukkah will stay standing all week. We have received generous guidance from NYC Council member Brad Lander as to permit regulations, however we cannot promise that the police will accept our arguments and allow the sukkah to stay standing. We therefore need volunteers to be present all week long, around the clock, to help us ensure our sukkah stays up and to document any potential physical encounters with the police.

There is currently a strongly-enforced rule against building structures in Zuccotti park. We are working with the organizers at Occupy Wall Street to ensure that this protest builds the larger movement. We will use consensus to adapt and respond to challenges from the NYPD as necessary, and we will work to ensure that our protest does not put others at Occupy Wall Street at greater risk.

The commitment to expand Occupy Wall Street participation via civil disobedience connected to Jewish ritual and observance – despite the real threat of a confrontation with NYPD – is incredibly inspiring. So too is the metaphorical interpretation (דרש) for Occupy Sukkot crafted by @JFREJNYC:

The eight-day festival of Sukkot reminds us of the abundance we have, and how very fragile that abundance is. The sukkah that we build, reminiscent of the fragile huts built in the days the Israelites spent wandering through the desert, represents shelter in a time of crisis, “the halfway point between slavery and liberation.” We are again at a halfway point. The movement has begun – will it take hold?

Join us as we spend the 8 days of Sukkot in a sukkah at Occupy Wall Street. This space will not only serve as a metaphor for the shelter of the Israelites. It will be a space to challenge economic injustice, racism, oppression, displacement, and exploitation that so many in our country and world face. Throughout the 8 day-festival we will offer trainings, workshops, and teachings; our sukkah will become part of Occupy Wall Street, a site of movement-building – shelter to demand that our nation’s abundance be reclaimed and fairly distributed among the 99%!

As Occupy Wall Street continues to spread across America, Occupy Sukkot represents an additional anecdotal footnote in the protest movement’s expansion narrative. However, for the American Jewish body politic, it represents a rapidly-expanding point of engagement not only with the Occupy Wall Street movement, but with Jewish identity itself.

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Follow me on Twitter @David_EHG

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About David Harris-Gershon

David Harris-Gershon – a blogger for Tikkun magazine and a freelance writer on Israel, the Middle East and America’s role in the region – has recently published work in The Jerusalem Post, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, AlterNet, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Colorado Review and elsewhere. His memoir – What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife? – is forthcoming from Oneworld Publications (2013). He received his MFA from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, and has worked extensively as an educator, teaching creative writing and Israeli History / Jewish Studies in university and high school classrooms. Follow David on Twitter @David_EHG

Posted on October 12, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Hi David: I browsed Sukkot and the meaning of the Lulav and Etrog in this observance: The
    choice of the two–as an activism-symbol [on banners, t-shirts, etc.] makes sense when considering the evils of Wall Street [greed, opulence, chicanery]. I wud only change one word of your column’s title: “Occupy Sukkot–An Expansion of ‘Occupy Wall Street’ where
    Jewish Activism and Civil Disobedience COINCIDE”…If it can be agreed with the New York public safety authorities, a number of organization- or congregation-sponsored structures
    cud be permitted to remain in specific locations? The members of an organization or congregation cud ‘take turns’ manning the tabernacles [handing out literature and educating the public], while wearing ‘Sukkot’ shirts or jackets? These folks wud wear official ‘event security badges’ and the huts city permits? The NYPD-authorized Shomrim
    [official NYC Jewish street patrols, similar to the secular ‘Guardian Angels’ in mission] helps
    keep peace and order?..Aaron Allen…

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