Rabbis, protesters hold Occupy rally on Rosh Hashanah

Approximately 100 people attended a protest called “Occupy Rosh Hashanah” in downtown Berkeley Sept. 17 to both celebrate the Jewish New Year and mark the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street.

Sponsored by Berkeley’s Beyt Tikkun synagogue and Piedmont’s Kehilla Community Synagogue, the roughly hourlong protest was held in front of the Wells Fargo bank near the Berkeley BART station.

Protesters held signs that read “Don’t support institutions that don’t support the 99 percent” and “Thou shall not make predatory loans.” At one point they sang a modified rendition of “Let My People Go,” with a chorus of “Fight the status quo.”

Led by Rabbis Michael Lerner, Arthur Waskow, Phyllis Berman and David J. Cooper, the protest began and ended with prayer.

“We are doing this on Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of a new year, the beginning of a 10-day process of individual transformation and social transformation,” Lerner told the crowd. “It’s a day of judgment. And on this day of judgment, we are finding [major] banks in default of ethical conduct.”

Berkeley police officers were nearby, but Lerner said there were no altercations. “There was no anger … it was everything a spiritual, progressive demonstration should be,” he said Sept. 19.

He said the Occupy Oakland Jewish Contingency plans to target other banks with similar protests, and wants to pressure local Jewish institutions from withdrawing their business from those banks.

On Erev Rosh Hashanah on Sept. 16, an “Occupy Rosh Hashanah” protest and service was held in New York’s Zuccotti Park, the birthplace of the Occupy movement a year earlier.  — emma silvers

Emma Silvers