Women’s March D.C.: Here for one another
Sunday I boarded a plane back to LA after walking with my daughter Rebecca, 22, at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C.
We started Saturday morning among a bimah full of inspirational women leaders in the salmon pink walled sanctuary at the historic synagogue, Sixth & I. We walked on Shabbat, in a sea of marching Jewish home-made sign- and banner-carrying pilgrims, and prayed, in the words of Abraham Joshua Heschel, “ with our feet.”
And this is what I learned I pray to live in a world where we are here for each other.
I arrived on a plane to D.C. after a broken overhead bin resulted in a checked bag, which turned into a lost bag. Good-bye pink knitted pussy gear, good-bye warm coat and sundry staples. I spent most of the weekend feeling a bit un-equipped, and it put me at the mercy of those who were in a position to throw me a line.
I was grateful to find people who were kind and helpful, from strangers who shared phone chargers to friends who schlepped warm clothes on crowded metros across the city to make it possible for me to march. I was reminded what a privilege, and indeed a critical feature of dignity and safety, it is to be warm and be surrounded by people sympathetic to my needs.
Over the course of the march weekend, I was privileged to meet, to witness and to hear from many people who converged on the city to share a vision for the world that is both bold protest and compassionate intervention. A vision that seeks to protect our planet for future generations, and that spins outward from a center that is rooted in care for the vulnerable.
On this march that meant the people and institutions that have been the focus of attack — people of color, Jews and Muslims, refugees and immigrants, LGBTQ, Americans who are poor, children seeking education in our public schools, disabled Americans and Veterans , those who rely on affordable health care and women who refuse to relinquish control-legally, morally or physically-over their own bodies.
I met a group of marchers who were the lionesses and change-makers of the women’s movement in the 1970’s, including civil rights lawyer Judith Lonnquist, and her daughter Victory Lonnquist who just completed a 6 month activist residency at Standing Rock , where she, a trained firefighter herself, was blasted with ice cold water in sub zero conditions by local firefighters. She said there was no way for her to really understand what was happening there without showing up, digging in and living there and hearing from members of the tribe, in intimate and meaningful ways that only standing side by side makes possible.
I met Mushe Tgaw, a taxi driver and an Ethiopian immigrant.
“You mean like Moshe?” I asked him.
“Yeah, like Moses,” he said. “My mother named me after Moshe Dayan because my people are great admirers of Israe.”
He didn’t think much of the march until his daughters, Abegael 16, Egla 14, Sara 10, asked to go.
“They told me, ‘Daddy we want to be a part of history.’”
He smiled. The proud immigrant father of two daughters born in Ethiopia and his youngest, born into the promise of America. He was able to become a citizen but he wonders if those who come after will be , “as lucky as me.”
I met Jerry and Wally, a gay couple who travelled from Massachusetts to D.C. to march for men and women walking the path toward marriage equality after them. Wally is a Hispanic immigrant, and they were able to obtain good legal counsel and had the good luck of finding love during the Obama years in a state with progressive legislation. But they worry that a young gay immigrant who falls in love during the Trump administration will have not one but two obstacles against them in the fulfillment of their civil rights and dignity. They marched for all those young couples who may fall in love and wish to build a life together in this “new era.”
And I met Jane Plitt, the very first staffer ever for the National Organization of Women in Chicago in the 1970’s and an early championess of womens’ birthright to equal wages, equal rights and the dignity to preside over their own bodies. For her, the walk was magnificent because it represented the next wave of feminist leadership to finish the work that she and her sisters started. She said with a tear in her eye, that it was important to her, a relief, and something she was not sure she would see before she died. But here she was, seeing it, and I saw it, with deep appreciation for my daughter Rebecca and her generation, too.
And I witnessed our magnificent Rabbi, Rabbi Sharon Brous modeling humanity from the march stage in our nation’s capitol. Where she reminded us all that our hearts are capacious, and we can build a better world if we join hands with the compassion in one another, with each step, with each prayer, with each person, millions and millions of women and girls, and the men who love them, strong.
Samara Hutman is the Director of Remember Us I The Holocaust Bnai Mitzvah and Righteous Conversations Projects.