Protesters gather on the National Mall in Washington. in the first Women’s March in Jan. 21, 2017.
The Women’s March made me uneasy from the start.
First, I wondered where the Jewish leaders were. After all, Jewish women have historically played prominent roles in second-wave feminism. Where were this generation’s Betty Friedan or Gloria Steinem? The omission of Jewish women in leadership roles was ominous, and as I learned over the coming months, my feelings were justified.
The first Women’s March, held in January 2017, omitted Jews from its list of so-called “Unity Principles” — minority groups whose rights they were making it their mission to protect. It was a glaring oversight considering that for years prior to Trump’s candidacy, the FBI reported that Jews were on the receiving end of more reported hate crimes (56.8 percent) than other religious groups, well ahead of Muslims (16.1 percent), who were included in the principles.
The Women’s March quickly became a monument to intersectionality — a matrix of marginalized groups joining forces to fight a common enemy in the form of the cis-gender white male, otherwise known as the patriarchy and personified in Donald Trump. But while Jews make up just 2 percent of the American population and are targets of rising hate crimes on both the right and the left, the Jewish faith — and by extension, Israel — is inexplicably considered by march leaders to represent the zenith of power.
This is why, as I predicted, none of the speakers at the first Women’s March spoke about the protection of Jews. Yet, other speakers, like Angela Davis, called for a free Palestine. And among photos from the event, I spotted a young woman holding up a sign that read: Free Birth Control and Palestine! It was the perfect example of how marchers wrongly conflate women’s rights with a hatred of Israel.
In fact, Jews have long been at the forefront of the women’s rights movement. The oral contraceptive pill was developed by Dr. Gregory Goodwin Pincus, a Jewish biologist and researcher recruited by Margaret Sanger when she met him at a Planned Parenthood benefit in 1951. That was my Uncle Goody, and without him the invention of the Pill and reproductive rights in America would likely have had a later start.
Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique” was the seminal work that ignited second-wave feminism. Bella Abzug was the first Jewish woman elected to Congress, whose first vote was in support of the Equal Rights Amendment.
The first Women’s March was just the beginning of my concerns. A few weeks later, the International Women’s Strike, co-sponsored by the Women’s March, included “Justice for Palestine” among the causes that “are . . . the beating heart of this new feminist movement.” One of the eight promoters of this event was Rasmea Odeh, a terrorist convicted for her role in two bombings in Jerusalem in 1969, one of which killed two college students. (Odeh has since been deported to her native Jordan.)
Linda Sarsour, the Palestinian-American co-chair of the Women’s March, is clear about her stance on Israel. In 2017, she told The Nation that a Zionist could not call herself a feminist.
But when I posted my concerns on my Facebook page, they were rejected as no longer relevant to the immediate crises of the Trump era. When I shared my concerns about anti-Semitism in the Women’s March leadership, including their unwavering support of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, I was told I needed to be schooled in anti-blackness.
According to a recent investigative report for Tablet Magazine, deep-seeded anti-Semitism was obvious from the very first meeting between march organizers, with Carmen Perez and Tamika Mallory reportedly refusing to include Jewish women in leadership positions because, they alleged, Jews bear the “collective responsibility as exploiters of black and brown people.”
Now that we know the truth about the leaders who refuse to step down, I call on my fellow Jews to skip the third Women’s March, on Saturday, Jan. 19, and instead join me in celebrating Shabbat. American Jews should unite in what connects us as Jews — and not march with those who divide us as Americans.
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