It was nearly impossible to get out of bed on November 9th. The grief, shock and rage immobilized me. I knew that I was not alone in this feeling, I knew that it was plaguing almost everyone in my life that I hold dear, and millions more. The American election had just ripped the rug out from under us, and ripped our hearts wide open. The prospect we most dreaded had come to pass, and I, for one, did not feel ready to face it.
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I did the only thing I know how to do in moments of crisis - I turned to my community.
By 9 A.M. that morning, I was already in a meeting of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ) leaders, to process together, our fears and our despair. We cried, we vented, we analyzed, we questioned, we sat in silence. As Jews we were witnessing a wave of anti-Semitism, abetted by the incoming administration, which felt both terrifying and familiar. And the same white supremacist ideology that threatened us as Jews was targeting our Muslim, Arab, South Asian, Latinx and Black neighbors with even greater ferocity. It was clear to us that together with our neighbors in these communities, we must and will resist with all our hearts.
In that moment, I was reminded, more viscerally than I could have ever anticipated, of the power of our organizing. Because just having that space - and knowing that I was part of something greater than myself - gave me a glimmer of hope. And if I could feel a glimmer of hope on November 9th, then I knew that somehow, we would find a way to collectively resist the coming administration and build a path to justice, for all.
This is why we march.
On January 21st, JFREJ will be participating in the Women’s March on Washington. We are one of many Jewish groups - as part of a growing Jewish Resistance movement - that have endorsed the march. We are proud to be partners in this historic protest.
Joining this march is about affirming three core values that we feel are critical at this time.
First, we cannot and must not normalize a white supremacist, nationalist, authoritarian and proto-fascist administration. On the contrary, we can and must do everything in our power to normalize resistance to it. We must send a strong, visible, and clear message that our communities will not stand idly by while the coming administration threatens our safety and livelihoods, and that of our neighbors. The Women’s March on Washington will be the largest mobilization on the first day of any administration in the history of the United States. Disruption and public dissent on such a massive scale will serve as a powerful symbol of resistance that will sustain our own movements moving forward, while making our intention of non-cooperation and non-compliance to the “powers that be” clear as day.
Second, as we resist, we must center the leadership of those most threatened by the coming administration. The most powerful organizing has always been led by those closest to the frontlines, and now more than ever, we need to hold that lesson close and create space for that leadership, both within the Jewish community and beyond. We know that immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQIA, and people of color will bear the brunt of the administration’s threats. They will be taking the greatest risks to secure their safety and they have the most to lose by speaking out. We need to hear and heed their vision, and have their backs.
The Women’s March on Washington has been organized in this spirit - despite fumbling in the early stages - and we are inspired by the leadership that the organizers are modeling. On January 21st, by joining a march that is led by women of color from grassroots organizations across the country, we will demonstrate the power of solidarity with a vision for collective liberation. I have no doubt it will be transformative.
Third, we believe that Jews have a critical role to play in resisting the coming administration and that to achieve freedom and dignity for all, we must connect the dots between the various threats that communities are facing - including our own.
We know that the vast majority of American Jews voted against the president-elect. Our community stands strong in rejecting the hatred and bigotry that his campaign and subsequent appointments represent.
We must be visible and outspoken in that rejection, even if we feel afraid, and remember our past as we stand up not only for ourselves, but for all people who are threatened by what’s to come. Our history as a persecuted minority means that it is particularly vital that Jews stand up for our Muslim, Arab and South Asian, Latinx, and Black and Brown neighbors who are facing harassment, hate crimes, mass deportation, incarceration and state violence. As Jews we have a powerful mutual shared interest in fighting religious and ethnic bigotry as well as in eliminating white supremacy, which we know undergirds anti-Semitism as well as racism. And we know that when we show up for our neighbors, they show up for us.
The Women’s March on Washington released a platform that does just this - it connects the dots between our respective struggles and articulates an expansive feminist vision about what’s at stake on every front. This is not a single issue march. It is a march that affirms that women hold multiple identities, including as immigrants, Muslims, Native people, queer folks, people of color, workers, and also as Jews. And that none of us are free until all of us are free.
For all these reasons, JFREJ will be marching. To be sure, no single demonstration will bring about our freedom. We have no illusions about that. We know that come Monday morning, after we’ve taken a day to recover, we will roll up our sleeves to continue the less visible work of organizing our community and building our power. But on January 21st, we will take part in a massive symbolic act of defiant hope, demonstrating our sacred commitment to a growing #JewishResistance within the broader movement to reclaim our future. We will fight like our collective soul depends on it - because it does.
Audrey Sasson is the Executive Director of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, a membership-based social movement organization based in New York City. She is a longtime organizer and activist in both the Jewish social justice world and within the broader labor movement. Follow her on Twitter: @audrey_sasson