Jewish voices join protest chorus in Seattle
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Jewish voices join protest chorus in Seattle

SEATTLE, Dec. 1 (JTA) — The sound of a shofar and a rewritten version of a Passover song joined the chorus of protests here this week at the World Trade Organization conference.

Amid a week that included violent protests and scores of arrests, Rabbi Jim Mirel and cantorial soloist Wendy Marcus helped lead a massive interfaith rally at a downtown church, calling on the United States to forgive the debts of Third World nations.

“It was a very warm, spiritually uplifting experience,” said Gabe Cohen of Bellevue, Wash., who participated in the interfaith service and joined Jewish marchers after a morning service.

“On a personal level, I felt part of my people as we marched down Third and Pike, and we were singing hallelujah and chants from the service. It was really very invigorating.”

Cohen, past director of the greater Seattle Jewish Education Council, said he wrote a special version of “Dayenu” focusing on the WTO, environmental issues, democracy and poverty. He also brought his shofar, as did a few other protesters, which they blew during the service.

A small morning service attracted protesters from around the West to sing and chant before the marching began Monday and Tuesday. When the group of 10 Jews, many wearing tallitot and some with tefillin, reached the barricades near the conference carrying a banner decorated with a Star of David they attracted other Jewish protesters who were unaware of the early morning service.

“People came over and wanted to know what we were doing,” Cohen said. “They gathered around and identified themselves as Jews. It was a good feeling all around. I’m glad we did it.”

Rabbi Margaret Hulub of Mendocino, Calif., organized the Jewish protest and wrote a special service for the morning services, focusing on environmental themes.

“This is inspired in part by Art Waskow’s teaching about bringing our regular Jewish life out to places of tension and suffering,” she said, referring to a leader of the Jewish Renewal movement. “Also, of course, by the desire to meet other Jews, pray together and connect spiritually in the midst of all the chaos.”

(Donna Gordon Blankinship is editor of the Jewish Transcript in Seattle.)