Women’s March 2019: JFREJ joins #JWOCmarching
This week, women, trans people, and our allies across the nation will march and rally to demand justice and an agenda that meets our needs and advances a vision for our future. This is exactly the kind of powerful, grassroots movement that this political moment demands, and that JFREJ was created to support. It is also a movement that, like all movements, is imperfect.
We have heard from many members of our community who are struggling to remain engaged with the Women’s March, and we have faced difficult choices about where, with whom, or even whether to march on Saturday. Like so many Jews trying to build the path to shared prosperity and a thriving multiracial democracy, we at JFREJ have at times felt the strain of real fear, disappointment, anger, pain, and confusion about how to do our work, in broad coalition, with integrity and pride.
Yet last week, a group of Jewish Women of Color — including long-time JFREJ leaders — led by Yavilah McCoy, with decades of demonstrated progressive political leadership and vast experience building multiracial, multifaith, cross-class coalitions to build power for the people, put out a call to our communities:
“As Jewish women of color, we support the unity principles of the Women’s March and believe that this is the time for our communities to affirm together that women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights.
As Jewish women of color, we value our multi-racial, multi-ethnic, cross-classed, multi-gendered, differently observant, differently abled, and intergenerational community of women as powerful. Our liberation is tied to the liberation of all our sisters and siblings and to our capacity to listen, learn, grow and take action together…”
We find their call clarifying, inspiring, and humbling — it aligns with our own values and judgement about how to show up in this moment. JFREJ will be sending members to Washington, DC to join the Women’s March there, and if it is in keeping with your practice, we invite our members to join the Women’s March in NYC at Foley Square in New York City from 10am–2pm. Aligning ourselves with and behind these Jewish Women of Color who have called us to action, we know that our dignity and humanity will be treated as non-negotiable. We will answer their call in DC, and at the Foley Square rally in New York City, and we will bring all of who we are to that call.
To be sure, there are some in our community who will disagree with this choice. To those of you who will not march or who will choose to attend marches that are not affiliated with the Women’s March — we understand that choice and we hope you understand ours — and we’ll see you soon, as we all know that there is so much more we can and must do together as a community.
It can feel terrifying to recognize the stakes of this work, it can be dispiriting to make mistakes, and it can be disorienting to be in conflict with each other. But, as this powerful call from Jewish Women of Color leaders makes clear, if we are fighting for a world in which we all get to be fully human, that means showing up to the work even when it is hard, in all of our imperfect humanity.
The pain we Jews experience when there is antisemitism in our movements is real, and JFREJ is fighting unapologetically for a Left where we talk about that, work on it, and where we get to be loud about it, and we are inspired by some of the hopeful, concrete results of our organizing.
Our movements are never free from oppression and never have been. They may imagine a better world, but they exist in this one, and antisemitism, patriarchy, racism, and other forces show up in our movements every day. It is our job as Jews to do what people have done in movements throughout history — keep fighting for ourselves, while we keep showing up to fight for everyone — to use our ability to be loud and organize on behalf of all who share our goals. For as many mistakes as we make — and our leaders make — and as much teshuva as we inevitably need to do, again, the dignity and humanity of all people is always non-negotiable.
We also view it as imperative to articulate that our social justice movements and leaders, even in their enraging imperfection, are qualitatively different from the right-wing, white Christian nationalist forces who actively seek to do us harm — to kill, incarcerate, deport, disempower, and disenfranchise all of us who will be marching on Saturday. All sides are not equal. Our various opposition is well-resourced and powerful, whether they be Christian white nationalists, or even those in our own Jewish community who publish or proliferate racist rhetoric against Jews of Color, non-Jewish People of Color, Mizrahim, and Palestinians. As we strive for collective liberation inside and outside of our movements, we must also keep our eyes on the prize, and our heads in the fight.
We are grateful to the Jewish Women of Color in our community who have demonstrated their commitment to the work of collective liberation time and time again. As their statement reads, “As Jewish women of color, we are committed to and united with our Jewish family and allies in fighting the growing threat of white supremacist and white nationalist violence in our country AND we are clear that this threat is not coming chiefly from our allies in the social justice movements we navigate.”
As we struggle together, in generative conflict, unapologetically as we are, and in deep commitment to each other’s humanity, it is imperative that we stay focused on defeating those who seek our destruction and our hindrance, while standing firm in our dignity as we agitate and educate our allies and partners as they grow. We are each other’s resources and power. No one else can do this work for us, and there are no better allies, and no better movements waiting in the wings to take these burdens from us. How must we treat each other, when we understand that? We can begin to answer that question by showing up, with all of who we are, by committing to staying in the struggle with our heads held high and our minds set on freedom.
— JFREJ 5779 Grace Paley Organizing Fellows
And JFREJ staff organizers Leo Ferguson and Zahara Zahav