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JCRC of Greater Washington
Community Advisory on 2019 Women’s March

Issued January 7, 2019

Background
Local Considerations
JCRC Position
Opportunities for Local Action

Background
On Saturday January 19th
, the Women’s March movement, which was launched to great acclaim in the aftermath of the 2016 elections, will once again unite thousands of women nationwide to march for equality and justice. These marches, and the Unity Principles underpinning them, reflect values and goals that JCRC supports: equality and safety for ALL individuals regardless of gender, race, religion or other identity; reproductive freedom for all women; and social and economic justice for all populations, especially those most vulnerable.

Unfortunately, the laudable mission of the Women’s March movement has in the last 12-18 months been overshadowed by intensifying controversy and turmoil surrounding anti-Semitism within the March’s leadership, which has received extensive press coverageAdditional concerns regarding financial mismanagement, having nothing to do with the Jewish community, have also been raised.

As the date for the third National March nears, many Jewish women and their allies who participated in the 2017 and 2018 protests understandably feel conflicted about whether to attend this year. 

As they have done since the first march in 2017, the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) has taken the official lead in addressing these complex, painful issues with the national Women's March leadership. Largely as a result of their efforts, the newly adopted national Women’s March Unity Principles do for the first time include Jewish women as a vulnerable group. 

Local Considerations
A distinction must be made between the official National March taking place here in Washington, DC, and the marches that will take place in many localities across the country. Some local affiliates/march sponsors have officially disassociated themselves from the national organization; others remain officially connected to the national group. Still other communities have elected to cancel their local marches in response to the turmoil embroiling this entire process. 

The Jewish community in the Greater Washington, DC Region is in a uniquely challenging position - although the Maryland and DC Women's March affiliates broke off from the national group last year, they are not organizing a competing separate march here in the nation’s capital. In our region, the National March led by Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory, and their colleagues IS the local march.  

For this reason, Zioness, an inclusive, progressive Zionist women’s organization, has stated that while their members will be marching nationwide, “Zioness is disappointed that it simply cannot march in Washington, D.C. in 2019 . . . we must draw the line where a march would require us to stand alongside or appear to consent to the type of bigotry that has been espoused by the [national] co-chairs.”

JCRC Position
The JCRC as a matter of policy does not endorse or co-sponsor events held on Shabbat. In this instance, however, even if the national March downtown were not held on Shabbat, our agency could not endorse it, co-sponsor it, or encourage Jewish women and their allies to attend. The anti-Semitism demonstrated by the leaders of the Women’s March Inc. is reprehensible and deserving of universal condemnation. Further, the continued intransigence of those individuals in unequivocally refusing to renounce leaders who preach this vile rhetoric is unacceptable. 

American Jewish women and their allies should not have to feel torn between their identities as proud Jews and Zionists and as Americans advocating for justice and equality. A movement that truly honors the rights and self-determination of all people should not be led by individuals who praise peddlers of hatred and who undermine the dignity and integrity of their Jewish peers, thereby contravening the very unity principles they claim to espouse. The obligation to unequivocally denounce hatred only intensifies when we are in spaces with long-standing allies and speaking truth to power becomes particularly challenging and even painful.

The JCRC understands that the decision to participate in the national march on the Mall downtown on January 19th is an intensely personal one. Many Jewish women who are disturbed and even outraged by the controversy surrounding the Women’s March leadership will nevertheless attend, so they can speak out on issues fundamental to the health of our democracy. Many other women will opt to not participate.

We encourage members of our community to consider the following opportunities in deciding how to make your voices heard the week of the March and beyond: 

  1. Zioness/JCRC/HRC/AWB Teach-in Tuesday January 15th
    Zioness, the JCRC, Human Rights Campaign (HRC), and A Wider Bridge (AWB) are co-sponsoring a teach-in on January 15th at HRC headquarters in the District to highlight the issues addressed in the Women's March Unity Principles and to examine how Jewish women, Jewish members of the LGBTQ community, and their allies can and should make their voices heard in truly inclusive spaces. RSVP and more information here.
     
  2. Alternative rallies on January 19th
    Several Women's Marches in cities within a several hour drive of Washington, DC are being organized by local entities that are independent from the national organization. Those cities include Annapolis, BaltimorePhiladelphia, and New York City. Information about other  Marches may be found here.
     
  3. JCRC Grassroots Social Change Activism on the State and Local Level
    The fight to advance social justice does not begin or end with one day’s events. As the Maryland and Virginia General Assemblies and the District of Columbia Council begin their 2019 sessions the JCRC will be mobilizing our local Jewish community to advocate on issues including criminal justice reform, combating hate crimes, protecting immigrants and refugees, reducing poverty, strengthening domestic violence laws, and improving independent living and employment opportunities for the disabled. You can be an active player in achieving justice and equality by joining us to meet with elected officials in Richmond on February 6th and Annapolis on February 20th.

We hope this information and guidance proves helpful. Please feel free to contact JCRC Associate Director Guila Franklin Siegel with questions or concerns regarding the Women’s March. For more information regarding JCRC programs, including our upcoming advocacy days, please contact either Darcy Hirsh, JCRC Director of Virginia and DC Government Affairs and Community Relations, or Meredith Weisel, JCRC Director of Maryland Government Affairs and Community Relations.