I will be at the Women’s March on NYC organized by Women’s March Alliance on January 19. I will not be marching in Washington D.C., as I cannot support the anti-Semitic, anti-LBGTQ, and hateful rhetoric that has been espoused and endorsed by the national Women’s March Inc. co-founders, Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour, and Carmen Perez.
This week, Mallory told the New York Times that “white Jews, as white people, uphold white supremacy.…”
When white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, they chanted “Jews will not replace us.” How can Jews be targeted and blamed at the same time? Mallory’s comment, which is both ignorant and offensive, suggests that Jewish people are complicit in white supremacy.
As a Sephardic Jew, I have relatives who would be categorized as people of color. They are profiled getting onto airplanes and when pulled over by police. Twenty percent of the Jewish population in the United States is Sephardic, black, Asian, Latino, or mixed-race; that means that there are 1.2 million Jewish men and women who do not identify as white.
The Women’s March Inc. leaders are confusing white supremacy with white privilege. They also are distracting us from the conversation about religious discrimination. According to the FBI, Jews are the most targeted religious group in America, and hate crimes are increasing. Last year 58 percent of hate crimes based on religion were against Jews.
The leaders of Women’s March Inc. seem determined to alienate Jewish women from the women’s movement. The most glaring example is their refusal to repudiate Louis Farrakhan, a proud and outspoken anti-Semite.
In March, Mallory was in the audience at a Farrakhan rally when the Nation of Islam leader gave her a shout-out. In the same speech, he claimed that Jews control government agencies and are responsible for “degenerate behavior in Hollywood turning men into women and women into men.”
Despite a public outcry, the Women’s March Inc. leadership refused to condemn Farrakhan. This is not surprising since they frequently have met with Farrakhan and praised him, and now they use the Nation of Islam members as security.
The leaders claim they don’t agree with everything Farrakhan says. But you cannot pick and choose when it comes to hate speech. That is dangerous, and a direct contradiction of the movement’s principles of unity among all women. Prejudice should not be acceptable in any form.
For the record, if my rabbi said during services that Muslims control government agencies or Hindus were responsible for the slave trade, I no longer be would attending my synagogue.
At a time when the women’s movement is actively supporting fairness, respect, equality, inclusiveness, and legitimacy, the connection to leaders who are lacking in these values is unacceptable.
Like many other sister marches across the country, the Women’s March on NY, run by WMA, has broken with the national Women’s March Inc. leadership. Similarly, the Women’s March on New Jersey is not associated with the national Women’s March, Inc. organization and it is not accepting any financial help from the national group for the march in Trenton, organizers say.
As women are elected into office in historic numbers and the women’s movement continues to grow, we have a choice. We can choose to support leaders (and marches) who attempt to lift up all women, or we can choose to support leaders who intentionally leave some women behind.
Jill Besnoy of Demarest is co-founder and co-president of Stanton Strong, Inc., a nonprofit with a mission to increase access to reproductive health care, including abortion care, for all women, regardless of race, class, religion, and sexual and gender identity.