Jews Join 50,000 Others in Philadelphia Women’s March

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About 50,000 people marched down Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the Women's March in Philadelphia. Photo by Rachel Kurland
About 50,000 people marched down Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the Women’s March in Philadelphia. Photo by Rachel Kurland

The pink p*y hats were plentiful at the Women’s March in Philadelphia on Jan. 21.

From Chicago to Berlin, hundreds of thousands participated in marches tied to the Washington Women’s March on Saturday.

Marchers of all ages and genders gathered at Logan Square early in the day, where health care and references to female anatomy dominated the most creative and sarcastic signs.

Beth David Reform Congregation held what they called a nosh before the march at Pepper Hamilton offices, where Cantor Lauren Levy, Hazzon Jessi Roemer, Rabbi Beth Kalisch, Valerie Bromberg, Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Rabbi Anne Lewis and Rabbi Seth Goren led the group of about 75 people in song and prayer, discussing this week’s parsha on the Exodus of Jews from Egypt.

Young boys wore American Jewish World Service signs as hats. Photo by Rachel Kurland
Young boys wore American Jewish World Service signs as hats. Photo by Rachel Kurland

Barbara Katzman, president of the Women of Reform Judaism at Beth David, organized the nosh with about a week’s notice; within a few days, 120 people had registered for the event.

“There were more men than I thought there would be because it is a women’s march,” Katzman noted.

But she said it was a moment of camaraderie.

“Traditionally, through the years, women have not been given their fair given rights,” she said. “They’ve not been given equal pay, they’re not getting work, they’re not getting the same opportunities that men do. I think this increases awareness that we’re here and we’re here to stay and we want everything to be fair and equal.”

The nosh was sponsored by Beth David, Repair the World Philadelphia, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the Atlantic District of the Women of Reform Judaism and the American Jewish World Service.

(The nosh was intended to support marchers before they went on their way, and was not affiliated with the march itself.)

Rabbi Beth Kalisch with her 4-month-old daughter, Abigail. Photo by Rachel Kurland
Rabbi Beth Kalisch with her 4-month-old daughter, Abigail. Photo by Rachel Kurland

Kalisch brought her 4-month-old daughter, Abigail, to the march strapped to her chest.

“She told me she cares about this, she was screaming at night, and I thought, ‘OK, she must want to march,’” she joked.

She said that members of Beth David reached out to her saying they planned on going to the march and that they wanted to be there, especially on Shabbat, with other members of the congregation.

“We wanted to help people connect the dots of social justice and Shabbat and Jewish values about women,” she said.

The breakfast was a way to reflect on why they were there together and what they were praying for, especially given a parsha filled with women “who take action and move the story of the Jewish people forward in history.”

“We thought that was worth studying before coming out here,” Kalisch said, rocking baby Abigail. “If it’s a moral issue, then I think Judaism cares about it.”

A sign from the march. Photo by Rachel Kurland
A sign from the march. Photo by Rachel Kurland

Although she said Beth David is very diverse politically, she noted that we are in a polarized time that affects all of the Jewish community.

“There’s a shared commitment to thinking about how our policies protect women’s rights and how our language respects women,” she said. “Lots of people on both sides of the aisle felt it was really important to be here and we wanted a moral voice for women to be a Jewish voice, especially on Shabbat.”

The congregation has marched for Soviet Jews, civil rights and against genocide in Darfur, so issues affecting women is something that Beth David congregants also feel strongly about.

“People feel like this is a way of expressing our faith that has some history to our congregation. It’s meaningful to be here,” she said.

Rabbi Seth Goren, executive director of Repair the World Philadelphia, brought his 5-year-old daughter, Liana, to the march. Photo by Rachel Kurland
Rabbi Seth Goren, executive director of Repair the World Philadelphia, brought his 5-year-old daughter, Liana, to the march. Photo by Rachel Kurland

Many parents brought their children to the march — some carried on top of shoulders — like Goren, executive director of Repair the World Philadelphia, who brought his 5-year-old daughter, Liana.

“Political engagement shouldn’t just be left to people who are 18 and above,” he said. “There are ways of engaging children in these issues, and not just being a model for them but also encouraging them to take on these values themselves and to live them out.”

Goren said the issues surrounding the march — public education, climate change, human rights and discrimination based on race, sexual orientation or gender — are also Jewish values.

“Regardless of who our president might be, there’s certain values that transcend who happens to hold that office — values like dignity, equality, equity and an end to oppression and discrimination,” he added.

Despite a few sprinkles of rain and clouds in the sky, the crowd chanted, “This is what democracy looks like” and “love trumps hate,” accompanied by a powerfully loud single drum.

The crowd roared as the march began, and cheers reverberated off the Franklin Institute onto the Free Library of Philadelphia and throughout the rest of Logan Square.

Marchers then walked down Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the Philadelphia Museum of Art — or as close as they could get, given the crowds.

Speakers, including Mayor Jim Kenney, addressed the crowd from a stage in the middle of Eakins Oval.

(Left to right) Dale Suib, Victoria Neely, Christine Markle and Dory Chasanoff wore pink sashes to show their solidarity. Photo by Rachel Kurland
(Left to right) Dale Suib, Victoria Neely, Christine Markle and Dory Chasanoff wore pink sashes to show their solidarity. Photo by Rachel Kurland

There were plenty of Jewish marchers, including Dory Chasanoff.

“We have to make sure everyone knows what’s going on and make sure that local elected officials get the message,” said Chasanoff, who was wearing homemade matching pink sashes alongside three of her friends.

The sashes read “WOMENS MARCH 2017,” in a show of solidarity.

“And I didn’t have a hat,” she laughed.

Jim Bleiberg attended both the nosh and the march, wearing a neon green sign around his neck that read “TRUTH MATTERS.”

“I support women’s rights as human rights,” he said. “Women’s rights are threatened with the current administration and I wanted to do what I could to support all the other women who are walking here today. I’m really concerned that there are going to be changes in policy, cuts in funding for women’s health, and cuts in funding for Planned Parenthood.”

Harriet Winokur, financial secretary of the Greater Philadelphia section of the National Council of Jewish Women, volunteered for the march. Photo by Rachel Kurland
Harriet Winokur, financial secretary of the Greater Philadelphia section of the National Council of Jewish Women, volunteered for the march. Photo by Rachel Kurland

Harriet Winokur, financial secretary of the Greater Philadelphia section of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), was spotted volunteering for the march, providing information and answering questions.

NCJW was one of the official sponsors of the march in Washington, D.C.

Winokur said 20,000 people registered online for the Philadelphia march, and roughly 50,000 showed up.

“There’s children, there’s older people, there’s people my age, my kid’s age, even a couple my grandkid’s age, my mother’s age. It’s amazing to see this,” she said.

Like many others, Winokur was wearing a p*y hat that she knitted herself as part of the movement started to support the march.

“Some of the yarn stores were saying they were running out of pink yarn, all over the country,” she added.

Winokur was glad to participate in the march, as it’s something she has rarely been able to do.

“I was too young for the early women’s movement, and even the things going on in the ’80s I was home with young children, so I watched from a distance,” she recalled. “So it’s amazing to be here and see all these women who care.

“It gives me faith that maybe things won’t be as bad as everybody’s saying they’re going to be the next few years.”

 

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