By Steph Black
For the fourth year in a row, I am proudly participating in the Women’s March on Washington. You should join me.
As a Jewish woman, I am obligated show up in support of social justice wherever needed, following in the long tradition of Jewish women who stand up for what is right.
The first women’s march was launched in 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, to show him and his administration that women would not stand idly by while he rolled back our hard-won freedoms, like the right to have an abortion, equal pay, freedom from domestic violence and more.
But it turns out the biggest struggle was not to convince Americans that such a demonstration was needed. The biggest struggle was an internal one. Marchers like me — progressive Jews and Zionists — have struggled ever since the first Women’s March to eradicate blatant anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism from the leadership. The success of that internal struggle is why I’m inviting everyone who is able to join me.
Jewish women have been fighting for a fair and just Women’s March from the beginning. We have listened to an original founder of the march, Vanessa Wruble’s testimony of vile anti-Semitism from the early leadership. We denounced former leader Tamika Mallory’s continued allegiance to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who compared Jews to termites. And Jewish women did not sit idly by while former march leader Linda Sarsour made egregious statements about Jews and Israel. We stood up, we fought back. And we made progress.
This year, the Women’s March announced an entirely new leadership after three of the four original members, Mallory, Sarsour and Bob Bland, stepped down. Of the 16 members of the new board, three are Jews. And when the anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist remarks of board member Zahra Billoo came to light, she was dismissed within three days. And last year’s march was entirely led by Jewish women of color, who danced in front of the march with a Torah. We should be rewarding good leadership when we see it and showing up in support.
This year’s march is the culmination of a long and hard battle for solidarity. And I could not be prouder to say that I support the Unity Principles of the Women’s March:
“We believe that Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights. We must create a society in which women – including Black women, Indigenous women, poor women, immigrant women, disabled women, Jewish women, Muslim women, Latinx women, Asian and Pacific Islander women, lesbian, bi, queer, and trans women – are free and able to care for and nurture their families, however they are formed, in safe and healthy environments free from structural impediments.”
I see myself in these goals. And I have marched every single year for the same reasons. I have long cared about these issues and I refuse to be sidelined from participating because of wrongdoings and misdeeds of the past. I refuse to allow myself to be pushed out of a movement I believe in because anti-Semites and bigoted people don’t want me there. Nor have I compromised my Judaism or Zionism to make those in this movement more comfortable. I will not let bitter grudges keep me from participating when I have finally seen the result I am looking for: an inclusive and bigotry-free march.
Jewish women of Washington have the chance to claim our spots on the right side of the women’s rights movement for this year’s march and celebrate the work we have done to get here. Join me and my fellow Jewish women and allies on Jan. 18 at Freedom Plaza to celebrate our wins and fight for the future of the women’s movement.
Jewish women have been on the forefront of the fight for social justice and social good. From Clara Lemlich sparking the largest labor strike at the time, to Heather Booth founding the Jane Network to surreptitiously provide women with abortion care, to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg repeatedly defending women’s rights in the Supreme Court, women have been on the forefront of progressive movements. It is now our turn to do the same. March with me for an end to anti-Semitism. For the right to access abortion care. For the Equal Rights Amendment. For an end to racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia. For LGBTQIA protections. And march with me for women’s rights.
Steph Black is a feminist, activist and writer based in Washington. Read her work at stephblack.blog.