Washington-area rabbis were among the 3,000 members of the clergy who marched Monday from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to the Department of Justice to protest inequality and injustice on the anniversary of the reverend’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
“Sometimes, it can be lonely being a congregational rabbi,” said Rabbi John Franken of Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase. He spoke by phone while standing in front of the Justice Department. “So, when you can come together and see so many wonderful colleagues — I’ve had a lot of embraces today. It’s really uplifting.”
Marchers chanted “No justice, no peace” and sang “We Shall Overcome” and “This Little Light of Mine,” among others, Franken said, adding that there was a “wonderful energy.”
The “1,000 Ministers March for Justice,” drew clergy from Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Sikh faiths and was organized, in part, by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and the Rev. Al Sharpton’s nonprofit National Action Network. According to an RAC statement, more than 300 Reform clergy members participated, though rabbis from other movements also took part.
While the march was centered around the overarching theme of justice, Franken and other rabbis in attendance had a laundry list of specific injustices, mostly stemming from the current administration, including President Donald Trump’s pardon on Sunday of Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, the ban on transgender troops and, in particular, the president’s failure to condemn the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville earlier this month.
“There’s no question for me and many of my colleagues [that] we see social justice as a part of our sacred duties, a part of mitzvot for us,” said Rabbi Amy Schwartzman of Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church. “I felt compelled to do more than just speak from the pulpit.”
Schwartzman said the warmth and camaraderie affirmed her belief in interfaith partnerships.
“I felt reminded and empowered to keep reaching out to people of other faith traditions to work toward justice today,” she said. “It was inspiring.”
Rabbi Hannah Goldstein of Temple Sinai in Washington was one of the speakers for the event and also helped lead a meeting of rabbis before the march. Goldstein spoke about the need to push on the gates of justice together, “because it feels like they are closing.”
“I left [the march] feeling hopeful,” she said, “like we have partners all across the country.”
The march proved that people can show up for each other and that, unlike what those in the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville would have people think, “we can thrive in multicultural spaces,” Goldstein said.
After hearing “amazing” speeches and preachers throughout the day, Goldstein said the best compliment she received after her own speech was from the man who helped her step down from the stage and told her, “You preach like a Baptist.”