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Jewish Insight into Occupy Wall Street

Musings by Moishy Scheiner of Boulder, CO who is currently studying in NY.

Occupy Wall Street has become a powerful movement that is spreading around the globe.  Its adherents claim they are outraged & feel hopelessly trapped by a cabal of bankers & corporations.  This movement has been developing its own brand of philosophy & ethics.

Many Americans have split opinions and feelings over the issue.  Some give full support to it, while others side with Occupy Wall Street ideology but not in their tactics.  And there is a third group who are fully outraged that a large public group of citizens intends to challenge their philosophy of government and democracy.

So what does the Torah have to say about Occupy Wall Street?

In this week’s portion of Vayeirah, the Torah tells us of the story of how Abraham is sitting outside his tent in the boiling heat of the desert after he has just performed an excruciatingly painful circumcision at the age of 99.   Although he should have been resting, he chose to sit in the heat and wait to search for any passerby or traveler that needed food or water.   WHY?

Abraham recognized that life is useless if it is not used to do good in the world.  He understood that every human being has a little spark of God inside of it that has infinite potential which, if left unused or unchanneled, is a great loss to humanity.  Therefore he was sitting outside waiting to help whoever came along.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe spoke of the rebellion of the youth in the 60’s.  The cultural & political authorities of that day viewed the Counter-culture as an attempt to combat the established system of governance, thus people were forced to take sides which often times broke up families.

The Rebbe explained, that rebellion stems from the fire of the soul which refuses to conform to the normal shallow perspective of society.  This fire or energy constantly drives us to aim higher and reach for a better more Godly world.  It is the voice of conscience that constantly compels us to seek for truth and place it in its right context in the world.

The challenge is to take that energy and channel it for good.  Like Abraham, we must recognize that energy within us and use it towards our purpose and mission to spread  G-dliness and therefore good on this earth.  We must not conform to society and yet we must stand up for His morals and values regardless of the opinions of the society that encompasses us.

So do I agree with the Occupy Wall Street movement?  That is not so important.  But, do I believe it’s a powerful development?   Whether it will produce any lasting good or just more unrest will yet be seen.  Do I believe it’s a powerful development for the consciousness of change and good in the world?    100%!

About Chany Scheiner

Chany Scheiner
Co - Director of Boulder Center for Judaism. Any successful organization needs a heart and that is what Chany provides, along with organization, marketing, innovative programming, and countless Shabbat dinners. Some of her accomplishments are large and public like the annual menorah lighting on Pearl Street and the matzo and shofar factories, while others are quiet and private like the time she spends counseling individuals and sharing the wisdom that comes from study.

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5 comments

  1. be advised that the leftists who Occupy Wall Street are also generally opposed to Israel, participate in Palestinian rallies,and occasionally carry signs that you would find anti-semitic.
    I do not think that this form of leftism is any better than Jewish activism in favor of anti-semitic communism in Russia, when the previous Rebbe was imprisoned. You are welcome to send a mitzvah tank into the middle of one of their rallies and report what happens.

    • Let's not generalize about the Occupy Wall Street participants. Yes, some are as Mike Stutzer describes. Others don't have Israel or Palestine or Jews on their radar. And others are committed to Israel and to the Jewish people. All of these folks raise what Moishy wisely writes is "an important issue." If we condemn them out of hand, we are missing the point and the opportunity to engage in a critical discussion about how to tackle these pressing issues.

    • That is utterly untrue. OWS had a giant Kol Nidre celebration, and Occupy movements across the country had booths during Sukkot (many of which were torn down and destroyed by police), and often host Shabbat services on Friday nights. There is an element of anti-Semitism and, more often, anti-Israeli sentiment, but it's minor, and it's only tolerated by the majority of the movement because they're not the sort of people to throw someone out for holding different views. For that, you'd have to join a Tea Party rally.

      • Stan Kreis

        Yes, the tea parties threw out racists where they surfaced. Now, there was a real tragedy to freedom-loving people! Then Andrew Breitbart of BigGovernment.com offered anyone $100,000 to the United Negro College Fund if they could prove that the n-word was used at the anti-ObamaCare rallies in Washington, DC. No one, none, zilch took him up on the offer. Not even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who made the charge. Why? Because there was none. Sadly, Pelosi's comments were widely reported, but not Breitbart's challenge. Again, a tragedy for freedom.

        Then, what about the verbal assaults on Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at U of California? He had to shut down his scheduled talk.

        Does the left really show tolerance for opposing views? Or is it a tolerance for anti-Semitism? It's a tolerance for anti-Semitism. Stutzer is saying we have seen this movie before, in the Russian Revolution. Know your history.

  2. It's not at all clear that the "leftists" who Occupy Wall Street are also "generally opposed to Israel, participate in Palestinian rallies,and occasionally carry signs that you would find anti-semitic." Indeed, the only manifestations of any anti-Israel or anti-Jewish sentiment were those of individuals or groups who went to the OWS sites and made use of the protest for their own purposes.
    See the Facebook page "Create a PageAnti-Semitism & Occupy Wall Street: Our Commitment," by the way, which is doing a yeoman's job of debunking some of the rumors – suhc as that shared by Mr. Stutzer.