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December 7: Occupation of Alcatraz

Lawrence Bush
December 7, 2009
american_indians_alcatraz_628x471On this day in 1970, Rabbi Roger Herst and members of the American Jewish Congress brought food, blankets and a menorah to Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay to celebrate Hanuka with 400 Native Americans who had occupied the island since November 20th, 1969. The 19-month occupation led to an end of the federal government policy of tribal “termination,” and greatly increased the militancy and visibility of American Indian activists. “We put Indians and Indian rights smack dab in the middle of the public consciousness for the first time since the so-called Indian Wars.... The American Indian Movement laid the groundwork for the next stage in regaining our sovereignty and self-determination as nation, and I’m proud to have been a part of that.” —Russell Means (Oglala Lakota) About 75 of you voted (thank you!), with three-to-one majority urging for a name change for this blog. The change is slight but significant: It’s now called Jewdayo, with a tip of the hat to Harry “daylight come and me want go Chelm” Belafonte. Before you ask us to spell it as “Judeo,” take heed of these words from my man Arthur Kurzweil: “There is a story,” he writes, “about my great great great-grandfather, Rabbi Chaim Yosef Gottlieb, the Stropkover Rav. When an anti-Semite passed him on the road, spit on the ground and called my ancestor, ‘Jew,’ my ancestor responded, saying, ‘If I can only live up to the name.’”

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.