JSPAN Visits Occupy Philadelphia: Interview with Nathan Kleinman

JSPAN Board Member Nathan Kleinman has participated in Occupy Philadelphia, the experiment in pure democracy happening on Dilworth Square alongside the Philadelphia City Hall, since its earliest days. Newsletter Editor Ken Myers visited OP and interviewed Kleinman on October 22. Ed.

Ken Myers: We are together to discuss Occupy Philadelphia which is happening right here. Is this a political event with a capital P, or is it something else?

Nate Kleinman: I would say at this stage it is the beginning of a social and possibly political movement. It is impossible to predict where it is going to go. Nobody has the power to decide where it is going to go on their own. The group makes decisions through, as much as possible, consensus. When we vote on things if we cannot come to consensus we decide with a supermajority. And so it really requires a long process of consensus building.

Myers: You mentioned that in the evening, typically at seven 0′ clock you have what you call the General Assembly. So everybody gets out and shares ideas?

More after the jump.
Kleinman: Everybody who lives here and people from elsewhere all come together. We make announcements about things that are coming up. Various working groups, of which at this point there are probably 20 or 25, report back to the full Assembly. They talk about what they are doing, what ideas they are having, what they are planning, they say when they meet and reiterate that everyone is invited. Every working group is open to all, and anyone can start one.

The General Assembly and that whole process was started on Occupied Wall Street and this is modeled after it. There are General Assemblies happening all over the country. There is one meeting today in York, Pennsylvania. There is going to be one in Stroudsburg, there is one in Norristown today, not to mention of course the bigger cities in every state across the country.

Myers: Do you see a tendency within this group to try to create a fourth political party (I say that because I give the Tea Party credit for being one)?

Kleinman: I am not sure. I think how this movement exercises its power in the political arena is still very much up in the air. But I have heard a lot of ideas, there was a lot of talk about it, and I think eventually we will come to consensus on a way forward . It seems likely to me that it will attempt to influence the political process. Some people want to run candidates for Congress next year in every single district in the country. That would certainly be something I would support because I think it’s not just Republicans that need to be asked, there are plenty of Democrats who could use a good challenge.

Myers: The Philadelphia Inquirer, in a comment today, talked about the potential for anti- Semitism in this movement. Do you see that as a serious problem?

Kleinman: No. No, I have not seen that at all. There is a huge number of Jews participating in this, and, to the extent that there may be anti-Israel or anti-Semitic comments they are from individuals. I have not seen it and it is not representative of the whole group if it does exist.

Myers: You are chairing a human rights program in a few minutes. What is your hope for this effort?

Kleinman: This is just another working group that we announced yesterday to talk about human rights, broadly defined to encompass poverty, racism, discrimination, oppression, violence, and hopefully come to some statement of principles that we in the working group can agree upon and bring to the General Assembly for their agreement. If it passes then maybe it can be sent to other General Assemblies around the country and around the world for their consideration, debate, discussion and possibly agreement. That is the only way we can come to consensus on a national and international level and be united moving forward together

Myers: A few days ago the Philadelphia Inquirer, writing up Occupy Philadelphia, seemed to summarize this movement under the flag “99 and one”. Is that a good solid summarization of the movement?

Kleinman: It is a characterization that came from some individuals in New York, and a lot of people like it because they think it dramatizes well what we are up to, that we do stand for: that we are representative of the 99% of the people who do not have 40% of the wealth

Myers: One more question. For our readers and members, if they want to follow what is happening, what is the best way for them to do that?

Kleinman: There are a lot of different places they can look. They should get on Facebook and check out our Facebook page. There is a page called Occupied Together that is bringing a lot of information from all the movements around here. But here in Philly I would say our Facebook page is the best one, with over 20,000 people following it. Look under Occupied Philly. Our media task force is doing a great job 24-7 to get the message out, and to make sure that we tell our story and the media do not have a monopoly on that.

Myers: Thanks very much for your comments.

Reprinted courtesy of JSPAN.

Nathan Kleinman is a graduate of Abington Friends School and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He is a human rights activist, a community organizer, and a veteran of several political campaigns in Pennsylvania.

235 Years of Independence – An Occasion to Celebrate American Jewish Heroes

— by Ken Myers

How many Jewish heroes of the Revolutionary War (or earlier) can you identify? You probably know that Haym Salomon was a key figure in financing the Revolution. Did you know that Francis Salvador was the first Jew to die in the American Revolution, on August 1, 1776, following the signing of the Declaration of Independence? You might know that Philadelphian Rebecca Gratz founded the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society and other relief organizations. Did you know that her family was prominent among revolutionaries here?

It is well known that Benjamin Nathan Cardozo (1870-1938), was a member of the United States Supreme Court. His family already had a glorious record in America: David Nunez Cardozo (1752- ?) was a hero of the Revolution. He led the assault on British-held Savannah, Georgia, in which Count Pulaski was killed. Cardozo was taken prisoner by the British while defending Savannah, but was released at the end of the British stay in that area.

Forty-seven Jewish heroes of the Revolution and other major events in American history are listed and their achievements memorialized on the web site of the Florida Atlantic University Libraries, with credit to
Seymour Brody.

But his major opus is the book, Jewish Heroes & Heroines of America: 150 True Stories of American Jewish Heroism, by Seymour Brody with illustrations by Art Seiden. Spend some time during the Independence Day weekend examining the lives of Jewish heroes during and since our War of Independence.

This Rosh Hashanah Remember Mazon


— Kenneth Myers, Vice-President of JSPAN

The season of reflection is here, and it has to weigh heavily on those of us who ponder larger questions.

Our economy stumbles along, with unemployment far too high and too wide among a broad cross-section of the old, the young, blue collar folk and new college grads. The large financial prizes handed out to those in power in a few industries seem totally out of place in a society with pockets of 20% unemployment.

Peace in the Middle East seems no closer, and each year that it fails to materialize gives credence to a number of very wrong answers to the open question. As we depart Iraq and struggle in Afghanistan, American hegemony in world affairs seems only a dream of the distant past.

In this country we Jews have long enjoyed a golden age like few others in our history. We are empowered as never before to reach for the goals of Torah, Tikkun Olam, striving for the perfection of the world.

America is also striving, and our brilliance is that we do prevail in time. We are the most powerful, most respected and admired nation on earth. We will restore full employment, expand the reach of health insurance, continue to do good works around the globe, and stand by Israel while we work for peace in the Middle East. We will respond unselfishly to all the challenges, as the richest nation on earth should.

We wish you the best of New Years.

This Rosh Hashanah Remember Mazon

Many Jews eat apples and honey together during Rosh Hashanah to symbolize a wish for a sweet new year. Tashlich is another Rosh Hashanah custom, in which we symbolically cast away our sins by tossing breadcrumbs into a body of water, such as a river, ocean or stream. After the ritual observance, add a gift of food to the hungry or a gift of money to Mazon, a Jewish response to hunger.

To donate, click here.