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Jewish Journal

Why I went to Occupy L.A. instead of synagogue

by Sophie Johnson

October 12, 2011 | 11:24 am

Sophie Johnson with actor Danny Glover. Photo by Mette Lampcov.

Sophie Johnson with actor Danny Glover. Photo by Mette Lampcov.

A little more than a month ago, I became a Bat Mitzvah. In Judaism, that means I am now an adult and have pledged to keep the traditions of my faith. And yet it was for those very reasons that I decided to spend Yom Kippur - the holiest day of the Jewish year - joining the protesters of Occupy L.A. instead of going to synagogue.

No, my parents weren’t thrilled when I first brought up skipping services on this important holiday, but since my Mom marched on Washington for civil rights and against the Vietnam War, I think she at least understood where I was coming from. Also, my mother knows first-hand what it’s like to lose her job in this recession. She was laid off from the newspaper where she worked for 18 years before she got hired by the Huffington Post and AOL.

Yom Kippur is the day of atonement, a day where we reflect on how we could be better people and apologize to anyone who we may have hurt. I think it’s time for the big corporations and banks in America to say they are sorry too.

And it certainly is time for people to stop ignoring the pain of others. We need to stand up for one another and against those who are doing us harm. That’s what Occupy L.A. is doing. It is part of a nationwide protest against corporate greed and the hardships that have fallen on families across the country.

There is a saying that goes, “If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” If you are standing by and not doing anything, you are part of the problem.

Too many people are out of work and are losing their houses in foreclosure. Too many people are sleeping in their cars or living on the street after the banks take everything. The banks, meanwhile, are still giving their executives bonuses.

I live in Malibu, a city that everyone thinks is a place filled with rich people. Trust me, there are people in Malibu who are hurting too. I know kids at school who have had to move out of their homes. I know families who are starting to fall apart because of all the stress. Our schools have one fundraiser after another and people feel bad because they can’t afford to give anymore. Our eighth grade class is collecting cans of food to help feed people. In my synagogue, we are also collecting food for food banks. The need is so great and people are just being squeezed too hard. It is time for the government to pitch in.

I believe that by joining the protesters, I am not just taking a stand, but I am fulfilling my role of being an adult. Only kids get to ignore problems. I am also fulfilling my role as a Jew, which is to help people who need my help. I want my voice to be heard. I am joining those kids whose parents have lost their jobs and lost their homes and I want to be counted among the people who are trying to change America back to being a place we can all be proud of living in.

I hope G-d understands my choice. I know He will because He planted the idea in my head.

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