I’m an Orthodox Jew.
I’m also a feminist.
Sometimes it’s hard to reconcile the two. I’ve walked a tightrope between these two parts of myself and, over the years, I’ve managed to perfect my balancing act.
However, in recent months, members of the feminist community have made it difficult for me to proudly identify as both a feminist and a Jew.
Some of the founding members of The Women’s March—Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour, and Carmen Perez—have a long-standing friendship with Louis Farrakhan, a grossly anti-Semitic individual who has called Jews “satanic” and compared us to termites. He denies the Holocaust and pedals terrible anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in his speeches and online.
When the Jewish community demanded an explanation for the founders’ association with Farrakhan and his supporters, a half-hearted apology was issued by Mallory and Sarsour that, in essence, tried to blame the Jewish community for feeling victimized, rather than actually apologizing for their anti-Semitic rhetoric. Kind of like saying: “I’m sorry you feel that way”; instead of saying: “I’m sorry for doing that to you.”
And it’s not just their support of Farrakhan that is upsetting.
According to Vanessa Wruble, an activist who joined the March when it was still in the planning stages, the anti-Semitic sentiment has been present since the beginning. Upon telling Mallory and Perez about her Jewish heritage (and how it inspires her to help others), they became unfriendly, and soon after the first march Wruble was excluded from the group.
I used to have respect for these women. They saw a need and rose to the occasion—creating a safe space for women and acting as leaders in a time of chaos and confusion. But I can’t stand idly by as the women who preach inclusivity and intersectionality allow me, and others like me, to fall through the cracks.
I refuse to hide any part of who I am, and the fact that I feel the need to, shows just how much inclusivity is lacking in the movement. I shouldn’t have to choose between being openly proud of my Jewish heritage and being a feminist.
Both aspects of my identity are integral to who I am, and both affect the way I see the world. This is the very essence of intersectionality—a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, and introduced into feminist theory in 1989.
Intersectional theory is a way to understand how all of the different aspects of a person’s identity intersect with each other and how this impacts marginalized groups.
For example, a woman of color will experience both racism and sexism as she moves through the world. The sexism she experiences will have racial undertones to it and the racism she experiences will have sexist undertones.
No part of who we are exists on its own.
And it’s not just about race or gender. Class, sexual orientation, religion, disability, and age are all interwoven into a complex tapestry that forms an individual’s identity. When working towards political and social equality all of these different aspects must be considered.
Women of all ethnicities, nationalities, and religions need to be able to stand together against the rising sea of hatred. Throw life-vests to everyone looking for a safe haven from racism and misogyny. And don’t leave some of us to drown.
I see headlines full of hate crimes, and white supremacists taking aim at the Jewish community: Last year’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville where neo-Nazi’s chanted “the Jews will not replace us”; the murder of 11 Jews in Pittsburgh while they prayed on Sabbath morning; Jewish community centers and synagogues defaced with swastikas; the list goes on and on. But all of this seems completely ignored by those who claim to be champions of social justice.
Until recently, I did my best to defend The Women’s March because I believe in what they stand for. I’ve educated myself and I’m armed to the teeth with facts, statistics, and a passion to help others. I only ask the same in return. But their refusal to even acknowledge the problem has driven me, and many others, away. This year, many Jewish women chose to march with other groups, in defiance of The Women’s March and hoping to make the statement that anti-Semitism should never be tolerated.
Thousands of young girls and women look to the leaders of The Women’s March as a source of inspiration. At a time when anti-Semitic hate crimes are on the rise all around the world, I implore the leaders of the Women’s March to take a stand against hatred.
I can’t support a movement that actively denies me my place in it. Until they weed out every last bit of anti-Semitism from within their ranks, I refuse to march.