US Jewish groups to join March for Racial Justice

Jews to march on 2nd day despite initial upset over Yom Kippur scheduling.

October 1, 2017 06:46
3 minute read.
Protesters with the March for Racial Justice calling for racial equity and justice pass by the US Ca

Protesters with the March for Racial Justice calling for racial equity and justice pass by the US Capitol in Washington.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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American Jewish students and groups were set to join the March for Racial Justice in New York and New England on Sunday, despite some disappointment over the scheduling of the first day of the march on Yom Kippur. The march is calling for a reversal of laws, policies and practices the movement says hasten inequality, dehumanize people of color and “maintain white supremacy.”

“For generations, the Jewish community has stood with our allies and marched, sat-in, walked-out, blocked bridges, protested and educated our shared society about these issues in a struggle to transform the policies that produce injustice,” a statement released by the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) said. “We continue their legacy and stand in full solidarity with the organizers of the March for Racial Justice on September 30th and October 1st.”

The main march is being held in Washington, DC on Saturday and Sunday, with sister marches taking place in other cities.
Students affiliated with the American Union of Jewish Students, WUJS, Hillel International, Torah Trumps Hate and Hitoreri: An Orthodox Movement for Social Change will participate in the second day of the march, on Sunday. The first day fell on Shabbat and Yom Kippur.

The March for Racial Justice Committee also released a statement embracing the Jewish community’s involvement and emphasizing the importance of members of all races, ethnicities and communities joining force “in the face of an administration that condones widespread oppression of all those most vulnerable among us.”

“We believe that none of us are free until all of us are free,” it said. “We are marching in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters who are observing the holiest of days on the Jewish calendar. Holding fast to Jewish tradition is also an act of resistance, in the face of growing antisemitism. We recognize and lift up the intersection of antisemitism and racism perpetrated by white supremacists, whether they wave Confederate flags, don swastikas, beat and kill people on the streets in Charlottesville, deface Holocaust memorials or threaten and harass members of our communities and our religious and community spaces.” March For Racial Justice, Washington D.C., September 30, 2017 (YouTube/Vas Sagar)

The main focus of the march is to call for justice for non-white citizens, amid accusations that the system disproportionately targets them.

“The day after Yom Kippur, let’s take our kavana (intention) from the shul and into the streets and fight for a more just world!” said Torah Trumps Hate, which describes itself as a coalition of Torah-observant Jews who see the current administration as anathema to Torah values and corrosive to the United States and the Jewish community.

Other Jewish groups participating in the event on Sunday include T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace and Torah Trumps Hate, a group for observant Jews opposing the Trump administration.

On its site, the March for Racial Justice listed three Jewish groups — the student union, Jewish Voice for Peace and Jews for Palestinian Right of Return — among its endorsers. Jewish Voice for Peace and Jews for Palestinian Right of Return back the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

In August, march organizers apologized for scheduling the main event for Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, when Jews fast from sundown to sundown and attend lengthy synagogue services. They said the scheduling had been unintentional and that they would not change the date, but were “working on ways to include the Jewish community” in related events.

The march describes itself as “a multi-community movement led by a coalition united in our demands for racial equity and justice.”

Critics of the march’s scheduling included the actress Mayim Bialik, saying the date “automatically excludes a distinct portion of people who historically have stood up for racial equality in enormous ways.”

T’ruah is linking its participation in Sunday’s march with the themes of Yom Kippur.

“As we read in the Torah portion for Yom Kippur morning, Aaron the High Priest must go into the Holy of Holies, the innermost core, to achieve atonement. The same is true for racism,” Rabbi Jill Jacobs, its executive director, said in a statement. “If we want to root it out, we must seek it at the core, and acknowledge the ways in which it is built into the key institutions of this country. We must unite our resources, values and actions in fighting for racial justice.”

JTA contributed to this report

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