February 22, 2019

Why Am I Excluded From the Women’s March?

Screenshot from Youtube.

On the Jan. 14 episode of ABC’s “The View,” co-host Meghan McCain said that politically conservative women like herself who are anti-abortion are being excluded from the Women’s March. Tamika Mallory and Bob Bland, two of Women’s March Inc.’s co-presidents appeared on the show in an apparent attempt to quell some of the controversy swirling around the massive rally. They told McCain that all women are welcome and that “there are no prerequisites.”

Yet if you’re a white, cisgender Jewish woman who loves Israel, there are.

The Women’s March Inc. leadership announced Jan. 14 that more than two dozen women have been added to its steering committee. Three are Jews: Abby Stein, Yavilah McCoy and April Baskin. Stein is a transgender Jewish woman and activist. McCoy and Baskin are Jews of color.

Why are there no cisgender, white Jewish women on the steering committee? After all, the overwhelming majority of American-Jewish women are white and straight. If the Women’s March Inc. leadership is trying to be inclusive, then it has made (yet another) mistake by not including someone who looks like most American-Jewish women. And it leaves me feeling unrepresented.

It’s a strange thing to feel purposely excluded. Is this how black Jews like Baskin and McCoy, and trans Jews like Stein, usually feel? Is that the point the Women’s March Inc. leadership is trying to make? Or are these the only Jews willing to be publicly aligned with a woman who loves and admires a man who has referred to my people as termites? Alternatively, is the message meant to be that only cisgender, white Jews are termites who need to be exterminated?

Either way, I do not feel comfortable allying myself with the Women’s March Inc. even though rabbis are now urging us to. On Jan. 15, a group of rabbis I admire, including Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, and Rabbi Joshua Stanton of East End Temple, both in Manhattan, issued a statement urging Jews to participate in the national Women’s Marches in Washington, D.C., and New York.

“Why are there no cisgender, white Jewish women on the steering committee?” 

They have been “in dialogue” with Mallory and co-president Linda Sarsour, “who listened carefully and respectfully to our hurt and concern. We have not resolved our differences but we agree to continue meeting, talking and working together long after the 2019 Women’s March is over,” they write. “Tamika and Linda have also heard the concerns of other Jewish leaders and have acknowledged earlier mistakes. They have denounced anti-Semitism and have taken meaningful steps to welcome more Jewish women onto the Steering Committee of the Women’s March and engage Jewish organizations at the highest levels of collaboration.”

Yet on “The View,” when McCain pressed Mallory to denounce Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic, homophobic statements, she did not. Instead, she said she doesn’t agree with everything he says.

The rabbis mentioned above also wrote in their statement, “All of our communities are internally complex and diverse and involve webs of connection that are misunderstood by people outside those communities. No individual can speak for an entire group of people.”

That last statement is a cop-out, for not just obliquely blaming Jews for “misunderstanding” a web of connection between Farrakhan and the black community, but also for giving a hechsher to Mallory’s refusal to outright condemn his reprehensible, influential rhetoric.

What is no longer a question is that, sadly, anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic alliances among some leaders of the Women’s March have made this more divisive among liberal American Jews than anything else I can recall. It is sad that the spirit of unity that pervaded the first Women’s March, just after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, is now dead and gone.

Looking at the paucity of Jewish leaders willing to sign onto the rabbis’ new statement, it’s no question that most of the mainstream Jewish community is no longer interested in aligning with the Women’s March leadership — even if it now includes three Jews.


Debra Nussbaum Cohen is a journalist in New York and author of “Celebrating Your New Jewish Daughter: Creating Jewish Ways to Welcome Baby Girls Into the Covenant.”