DC march on Yom Kippur again stirs scheduling outcry

Argument rages after endorsement of rally by ‘NOW.’

THE ADVERTISEMENT for the March for Black Women, scheduled for September 30, which falls on Yom Kippur (photo credit: NOW.ORG)
THE ADVERTISEMENT for the March for Black Women, scheduled for September 30, which falls on Yom Kippur
(photo credit: NOW.ORG)
The endorsement of the National Organization for Women has reignited the firestorm over the scheduling in the US of two social-justice events for Yom Kippur.
In a statement last week, NOW president Toni Van Pelt said she was “proud to officially endorse” the concurrent marches in Washington DC – the March for Racial Justice and the March for Black Women.
The events are being held on September 30, which, this year, is Yom Kippur.
While the timing of the march was already the subject of controversy a month ago, as reported by The Jerusalem Post, the high-profile endorsement has raised the hackles of some members.
Marilyn Fitterman, a longtime NOW activist and a former New York State chairwoman for the organization, expressed her disappointment.
“NOW has ringingly endorsed the black womens March being held on Yom Kippor [sic],” she wrote on Facebook last week. “I will no longer belong to NOW after having spent more than 40 years as an activist for NOW. DISTRESSED. NEVER AGAIN.”
The NOW statement did not mention the scheduling conflict. NOW is a national feminist organization that was founded in 1966 by, among others, its first president, the Jewish Betty Friedan.
Fitterman’s post provoked dozens of reaction, some in support of Fitterman’s sentiment and others upset at her message.
China Forston-Washington, also a NOW member – who lost the organization’s leadership race earlier this year – expressed anger at Fitterman’s outrage.
“Please tell me that isn’t white privilege,” she wrote. “Black Women are asked to take a back seat again... I am not overlooking the relevance of your Jewish holiday, but you do not have the privilege or right, nor can you try to force the change or shutting down any activity for the rights and equality of women,” she continued. “So much for the rights and freedom of others as long as it doesn’t interfere with yours.”
According to BuzzFeed, an internal email from NOW board member Jocelyn Morris praised the organization’s handling of the complaints.
“The members we lose over this we will replace with the ones we recruit at the March,” she reportedly wrote.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Morris said: “NOW had nothing to do with the date choice. Jews are only 10% of the USA population. The planners have apologized for overlooking the Jewish holiday, but will March for Black Women.”
Last month, the scheduling of the March for Racial Justice provoked an outcry among some activists. Some cast doubt that the timing was in fact an accident.
In response, the organizers wrote in mid-August that while they regret the conflict, the date will not be changed. The significance of September 30, they said, is the marking of the anniversary of a race riot in Elaine, Arkansas, in 1919, in which at least 100 African-Americans were killed.
“The organizers of the March for Racial Justice did not realize that September 30 was Yom Kippur when we were factoring in these and other considerations and applying for permits,” they wrote. “Choosing this date, we now know, was a grave and hurtful oversight on our part. It was unintentional and we are sorry for this pain, as well as for the time it has taken for us to respond. Our mistake highlights the need for our communities to form stronger relationships.”