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The Women’s March, Jewish Women, and Anti-Semitism

I just returned from the National Women’s March in Washington, D.C., USA. It was powerful, moving, and strongly committed to unity. And Jewish women of color led a delegation of several hundred Jewish women of color and allies! I was a part of that delegation.

Leading up to the march, some Jews felt that the leaders of the march were not dealing sufficiently with anti-Semitism. As a result, many of us put in dozens of hours listening to and working with upset people. The anti-Semitism was real, and a lot of Jews were hurting.

I worked with several Jewish leaders who were struggling over whether to stay in the march in light of [considering] the anti-Semitism. Jewish women of color, in particular, felt that not staying in the march would be colluding with racism and sexism. I held out to everyone that we Jews need to gain enough muscle to stay in coalition (especially when we agree with most of the unity principles) and at the same time take on [deal with] the anti-Semitism.

A number of Jewish women and the leaders of the march had painful, honest conversations about anti-Semitism.

I believe that we are further ahead for having had to handle this controversy. At the first National Women’s March two years ago, there was no mention of anti-Semitism. This year three Jewish women were added to the steering committee (two are women of color who are also involved in RC). And this year the issue of anti-Semitism was included in the unity principles.

There is a growing hunger to understand anti-Semitism and not let it get in the way of progressive coalition work, particularly on women’s issues. For example, this past week I was asked to lead a webinar for the National Council of Jewish Women on “Dealing with Anti-Semitism with Coalition Partners.” Over two hundred women from across the United States signed up for it.

THE DAY OF THE MARCH

The day of the march began with an early morning Shabbat service led by Jewish women of color. Hundreds came. Then we marched behind a powerful contingent of Jewish women of color.

Many of us were moved to tears as two Black African-heritage Jewish women, along with other Jewish women of color, addressed the march. [For a video of this, see <www.facebook.com/yavilah.mccoy/videos/10156840960543971>.] They spoke strongly about unity and fighting together against sexism. They also spoke out against anti-Semitism and insisted that working against it was part of the work against sexism. They held a Torah, several wore tallisim [Jewish prayer shawls], and they wished the Women’s March Shabbat shalom [a Hebrew greeting on the Jewish Sabbath].

STILL MORE WORK TO DO

There is still a lot of work to do. The classic historical pattern in which anti-Semitism is used to divide progressive forces was apparent these past few weeks. The press spent much of its time focused on the controversy and how the march was divided and very little on the march’s goal of ending sexism.

I am learning how we can stand up fiercely against anti-Semitism while at the same time not let it keep Jews and other progressives divided or walking away from the work of eliminating sexism.  

Cherie Brown

International Liberation
Reference Person for Jews

Silver Spring, Maryland, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail
discussion list for leaders of Jews

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Last modified: 2019-04-24 16:53:41+00