A few decades ago, it also would have been difficult to imagine how such a Kol Nidre service could have come together. Like Occupy Wall Street and its growing number of spin-offs, these events happen because of the extensive use of social media by savvy organizers who don’t need or seek the blessings of communal leadership. “It seems more bottom up than top down,” observed Alan Wolfe, a Boston University political scientist whose latest book is “Political Evil.” He’s right. Our image of a Jewish protester from the 1960s is of an ordained rabbi. Our image of a Jewish protester at Occupy Wall Street is of a scruffy guy with an iPhone.
Lew Daly, senior fellow at Demos and author of “God’s Economy: Faith-Based Initiatives & the Caring State,” drew another important distinction.
“Perhaps the most striking thing about Yom Kippur at Occupy Wall Street is the act of public worship, worship as ritual and worship as witness,” he wrote in an e-mail. “We have seen this before, fighting racism and war from religious tradition, the deepest part of our culture.
“But we have not seen it as often in economic crises — it is in the nature of a market-dominated culture for people to blame themselves before others if they struggle or fail economically. But that may be changing now as Wall Street’s protected status has become plain for all to see.”
And in the past, when populist movements embraced religious talk, that often came with an undercurrent of anti-Semitism. The most famous example was William Jennings Bryan’s mesmerizing speech at the 1896 Democratic National Convention, when he vowed, “You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold!” Yep, many think it’s clear that he was talking about the Jews.