Yavilah McCoy Addresses the Women’s March in Washington, D.C.

February 28, 2019
by Samantha Grosinger

On January 19, 2019, Yavilah McCoy – an anti-racism activist and Jewish woman of color – addressed the third annual Women’s March in Washington, D.C. McCoy had recently joined the expanded Women’s March’s steering committee, along with two other Jews (April Baskin and Abby Stein) and thirty other leaders, after the Women’s March leadership had faced allegations of antisemitism.

Amid the controversy over whether American Jews should distance themselves from the March, Yavilah McCoy opened her address to the crowd of thousands with a big declaration of “Shabbat Shalom!” Other Jewish women of color joined McCoy on stage as she delivered her speech. McCoy told the crowd that normally at this time on a Saturday she would be sitting down with her family for a Sabbath meal, but Jewish tradition emphasizes that saving lives (“pikuach nefesh”) is paramount to any religious observance – and she believed that standing up with others at the Women’s March to protest dehumanizing government policies was a fulfillment of pikuach nefesh.

McCoy was born into an Orthodox family in Brooklyn in 1972 and attended Yeshiva. In 2000, she founded Ayecha, an organization that provided education and outreach programs aimed at creating a more inclusive Jewish community for Jews of color. In 2014, she founded DIMENSIONS, a consulting practice that facilitates training in diversity, equity, and inclusion.

This entry was created for This Week in History as part of a course on the history of American Jewish women taught by Karla Goldman at the University of Michigan, Winter 2019.

Sources: Feld, Lisa. “Yavilah McCoy.” Jewish Women's Archive, 2015; Nasr, Firas. “Yavilah McCoy.” The JWOC Resilience Circle; Tibon, Amir, et al. “'Many People Are Trying to Divide Us': Thousands Attend Third Annual Women's March.” Haaretz.com, Haaretz, 20 Jan. 2019.

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Yavilah McCoy.
Courtesy of Tom Kates.

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Yavilah McCoy Addresses the Women’s March in Washington, D.C.." (Viewed on October 19, 2019) <https://jwa.org/thisweek/feb/28/2019/yavilah-mccoy-addresses-womens-march-washington-dc>.

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