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Nov 10 2011

Occupy Childhood

By at 1:57 pm

Ronia occupies Philly.

A month or so ago, I attended a panel on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement at a synagogue in Brooklyn. My daughter Ronia, 3, was in tow.

Dubious of the deserted childcare facilities on a weekday evening, Ronia scanned the room. She spotted the seven people on stage, waiting to begin their confab. She turned to me and asked, “Are we going to have a chance to go up there and speak?”

I was touched. Three years old and she had not learned the sometimes arbitrary routes by which some people speak and others listen.

When that forum took place, Occupy Wall Street was a curiosity less then a week old. Its major results at that point were inspiring critiques from established activist groups about how they were doing it wrong. But when it took off, I knew I had to be part of it. Having spent some time at Occupy Wall Street, I very much wanted Philly to have a similarly strong Jewish presence. I plugged in the best way I knew how, organizing the “Jewish stuff,” starting with the Kol Nidre services.

At the Kol Nidre services, Ronia darted on stage, totally in her element. She peered down into some sort of subway portico, causing a grandmotherly member of our newfound “congregation” to rush the stage to pluck her up. I had been standing near her but focusing on leading services for the first time in my life, not really paying attention. Fortunately my friend Rachel, who was leading that particular prayer, didn’t miss a beat and the show went on.

After it was over, both Ronia and I were exultant. “Are we going to sleep here?” she hopefully asked. Sadly, no, though she and her mother later did. But we did explore the rest of the Occupation. Ronia spent some time at the “family zone,” where the principles of Occupy Philadelphia were somewhat on a collision course of the sharing abilities of my “little revolutionary.” But the people staffing it were unfailingly patient, even when Ronia had an accident on the family zone sign she had been meticulously coloring. We were having a good time, but Ronia again sensed action so we headed back to the General Assembly.

At last, Ronia had her chance to speak, though she didn’t take it. She walked right up to the facilitator with the microphone and planted herself down, watching intently and taking everything in with her trademark stare. She loved taking part in the waves of pointing, where the demonstrators as a group pointed to indicate the location of various parts of  the encampment. And when time came to vote, she raised her hand with everyone else–both in favor and against–applying for a permit for the demonstration. While perhaps a bit unclear on the concept, my daughter knows power when she sees it. Energy and fairness so palpable it is obvious to a 3-year-old: most definitely the point.

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