BOSTON — An organized contingent of Jewish marchers is expected to be among the hundreds of thousands of people converging on the streets of the nation’s capital for the Women’s March on Washington Saturday.
Holding signs like “Jews March for Justice” and “Jewish Women Speak Up” and tweeting out under the hashtag #jewsmarchondc, the bloc of various Jewish progressive organizations will set off with their own small contingent to the march following Shabbat morning services at the Sixth and I Synagogue. Along the way they will merge with even more Jewish marchers organized by the Reform movement.
The idea for the Women’s March began as a Facebook post by a retired lawyer in Hawaii in the immediate aftermath of Donald Trump’s election but swiftly spiraled into a full-on event that left women’s and other organizations scrambling to respond.
Many women, Jewish women among them, thought they would be headed to Washington for the inauguration of the first woman president, not a demonstration the day after to reaffirm their support for women’s rights. Some 71 percent of American Jews voted for Hillary Clinton.
‘We learned from the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam movements’
“We learned from the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam movements. We were there, but not there as an organized group,” said Nancy Kaufman, president of the National Council for Jewish Women.
“It’s been very heartening to see the ways we have all been collaborating and coordinating,” Kaufman said of the multiple progressive Jewish organizations that have come together to organize and co-sponsor this combined presence at the march as well as Shabbat services, hot meals and events from text study to yoga for those coming locally and from around the country.
The Sixth and I Synagogue, a historic shul in downtown Washington, DC, built in 1908, will be a central stage for the series of activities over the weekend being called “In Shabbat We Trust” organized in partnership with the Washington-based organizations Jews United For Justice and T’ruah.
Among the organizations co-sponsoring the event are Avodah, Bend the Arc Jewish Action, HIAS, Jewish Women International, Jewish Women’s Archive, Keshet, Lilith Magazine, the National Council of Jewish Women, and American Jewish World Service.
“I’m excited to march as a Jewish woman because I think in this very scary confusing moment, it is important to make it clear that we as Jews are both standing up to protect vulnerable populations and are also being visible as Jews. That we are mobilized and organized in this moment and that we are going to fight for the Jewish values we believe in,” said Abby Levine, director of Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, a network of 57 Jewish social justice organizations.
‘Seeing past lines of difference to see God’s image in everyone is something that resonates deeply for me as a Jew’
“I think seeing the humanity in everyone and seeing past lines of difference to see God’s image in everyone is something that resonates deeply for me as a Jew and as a Jewish woman and is something our society desperately needs in this moment,” added Levine.
Rabbi Shira Stutman, the senior rabbi at Sixth and I Synagogue, spoke Thursday of the “million different details” she and the other organizers were handling ahead of the march, including the difficult task of turning people away from the Shabbat dinner because its 250 seats were so quickly sold out.
Stutman was also scrambling to figure out how to accommodate extra guests for Shabbat services, most likely through a live feed from the sanctuary to the social hall, and finalizing plans for the police escort that will accompany the Jewish marchers. Recent bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers have heightened the seriousness of security issues.
The timing of the march also presented logistical complications for the Shabbat-observant.
Jewish law does not prohibit Jews from participating in marches on Shabbat, but laws prohibiting certain modes of travel and the carrying of objects in public spaces make attending more complicated.
A Facebook page was set up for Jews, mostly Jewish women, who observe Shabbat but wanted to attend the Washington march or one of the hundreds of other sister rallies taking place in other American cities.
Through the page, people offered up rides, beds and couches in kosher homes within walking distance of the Washington march, and exchanged information on local kosher restaurants and Shabbat dinners.
‘To see God’s image in everyone… is something our society desperately needs in this moment’
Beyond Facebook, message boards and Google docs were also shared from within the local Washington Jewish communities offering home hospitality. One congregant from Tifereth Israel Congregation, a conservative synagogue in Washington, will be hosting about 40 out-of-town teenagers in her home.
Nevertheless, Stutman said, beyond the logistical stresses, “there is a feeling of exhilaration in all this work.
“Not only is it the holy work of standing up for Jewish values, fighting hatred, and welcoming in people, but at this moment of conflict… there are places that Jews of different opinions do gather. For instance, synagogues,” Stutman said. “We want to encourage as much discourse as possible.”
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