Protest held in honor of Occupy Movement, Rosh Hashanah

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Tony Zhou/Staff

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Members from Jewish organizations held a protest in Downtown Berkeley Monday to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street and to celebrate the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana.

Called Occupy Rosh Hashanah, the protest was held at the Wells Fargo Bank at 2144 Shattuck Ave. and was sponsored by several Jewish organizations, including the Shalom Center in Philadelphia, Pa., Beyt Tikkun Synagogue in Berkeley and Oakland’s Kehilla Community Synagogue. The protest was led by rabbis Michael Lerner, Arthur Waskow, Phyllis Berman and David Cooper.

Attended by approximately 60 people, the protest called for major banks like Wells Fargo, Chase and Bank of America to remit debts on loans and challenged their lending practices.

Lerner said that on Rosh Hashana, there is a strong religious command against lending money for interest and called on people to take their money out of these banks and put it into smaller credit unions.

“They all have engaged, systematically, in exploitative treatment of the people who give them the money,” Lerner said. “They have taken our money and used it, not to serve any larger social purpose but solely to advance themselves and make more profit at the expense of 99 percent of the population.”

Wells Fargo was closed by 5 p.m., despite its posted 6 p.m. closing time. A sign on the door said the bank was “unexpectedly closed due to an emergency and will reopen as soon as possible.”

Wells Fargo could not be reached directly for comment.

UC Berkeley senior and former member of Occupy Berkeley Bo-Peter Laanen said he agreed with the protest but did not think it signified a resurgence of the movement in Berkeley. Occupy Berkeley began in October last year and ended when the city finally removed the encampment in December.

“I agree with the protests to some extent,” Laanen said. “America needs to review the way it does business overall, especially within the government. I don’t think we’ll see anything as powerful as last year.”

Judy Goldschmidt, a demonstrator at the event, traveled from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, to be at the protest.

“I wanted to put my Jewish values to the fire and be with people who I feel like kindred spirits with,” Goldschmidt said. “This feels like such holy work to be here today and be a part of it.”

Contact Andy Nguyen at [email protected].