Ten Thoughts About Antisemitism and the Women’s March
I’ve written before about the conflicts involving the Women’s March leaders and their associations with Louis Farrakhan, whose antisemitic and homophobic behavior is well-known. But in the wake of the antisemitic shooting in Pittsburgh and in anticipation of the 2019 Women’s March, I have been puzzling through it all again.
I don’t have any easy or solid answers, but here are 10 brief thoughts to add to the conversation:
1. There are no perfect leaders or perfect allies. Everyone, regardless of political views or religious, racial, or cultural identity, has blind spots and inconsistencies. But we all have the potential to grow and change.
2. No one should have to choose among their identities when participating in social movements. African American women and Jewish feminists, among others, have taught us this again and again.
3. When movements encounter internal struggles and divisions, we need to ask ourselves: Who benefits most from the fight? What purpose does agitation serve? Are we able to use inquiry and empathy as tools for the greater good? And how might we express disagreement in a way that advances our collective agenda instead of tearing it apart?
4. Antisemitism is complex and misunderstood because it operates differently from other kinds of oppression. At its core, antisemitism is not about dominating Jews but about erasing them. Jews are perceived as simultaneously powerful and powerless. As Alana Newhouse delineates in Tablet, Jews have been described in contradictory stereotypes:
“We are archcapitalists and at the same time the primary carriers of the viruses of socialism and Bolshevism. We are physically weak, yet also hyper-aggressive and violent. We are presented as right-wing, left-wing, sexual, asexual, straight, gay, light-skinned, dark-skinned, childless, over-breeders, publicly argumentative and nefariously invisible, creatures of the dark shadows.”
5. In theory, if not always in practice, feminism is incompatible with antisemitism or any kind of racism or hatred based on identity. Though feminism begins with attention to gender and power relations, it ultimately demands equality more broadly. And if you are committed to supporting all women, you cannot write off or subjugate one subset.
6. White people, including white Jews, are very comfortable making demands and expect to be heard. People of color, including Jews of color, are understandably angered and threatened by this behavior because it’s a symptom of white supremacy.
7. We can only come to understand the pain and vulnerability of others—and vice versa—by being in relationships with people whose identities, experiences, and ideas do not mirror our own.
8. Safety and comfort are not the same thing, and we must learn to discern between the two. Safety is a fundamental right. Being uncomfortable, on the other hand, is a good thing to experience sometimes, as it can lead to learning, insight, and new relationships.
9. Ideology isn’t rational. It grows from a complex soil of history, community, trauma, and idealism. We should acknowledge how this tangled web of influences can turn up the heat in a complex debate.
10. Finally, we must affirm our dignity as Jews but also understand that we might not be at the center of the struggle. In diverse and intersectional movements, the work will always be larger than ourselves. Because, as Emma Lazarus wisely wrote, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.”
How to cite this page
Rosenbaum, Judith. "Ten Thoughts About Antisemitism and the Women’s March." 14 November 2018. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 18, 2019) <https://jwa.org/blog/ten-thoughts-about-antisemitism-and-women-s-march>.