Shabbat Shalom From Freedom Plaza

march 3I am so glad I got to go to the Women’s March today.

Did I hesitate? Just a little.

Did I do my homework, hearing the controversy over antisemitism? Yep.

And then, I was glad to be there.

This is not in judgement of anyone who chose differently.

But I figured, why be up in my feelings and my fear? When I could be walking for the kind of world do I want , a kinder world. Did I experience antisemitism, as a child and as a teenager? Yes. Did it hurt — did it even define me in many ways? Absolutely. But I figured, why worry about my pain right now, when I can help support so many others who have suffered just as much, and so much more?

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I’ll admit, I felt both excited, and a little stupid, walking down 13th street toward Freedom Plaza, trying to lose myself in the torrent of pink hats. Excited, because, always, I love the protest signs, the clever ones, like “Make American THINK again!” and “We are not ovary-acting” to the simple but ever-urgent “Black Lives Matter.” Excited, because I got to speak up against the wall, the economic and racial injustice, and the fact that thousands of refugee kids are apparently still in detention, separated from their families.

But I felt a little stupid, too, a little weird, wearing my star in public like this. No one seemed to catch my eye. No one smiled or nodded. Given some interesting childhood experiences I had (which I might blog about later), I started to feel…kind of cut off. I started to wonder, a little, if I should have stayed home, after all.

Then, I told myself, calm down, Katia. The whole reason you came here, is because you decided this didn’t have to be about you. And I squeezed my way toward the front of the crowd. It was surprisingly easy. But because the march was so much smaller this time than two years ago, I got to see the speakers’ faces from pretty close by. And I got swept up in their passion.

A whole lineup of beautiful Latina trans speakers chanted, “We are women!” Tokata Iron Eyes reminded us of our responsibility to care for our world, and that we cannot go on the way we have been. We sang the Black National Anthem and got to hear the most magical indigenous chant. Dr. Johnetta B. Cole blew warmth into the cold, rain-soaked space when she discussed how though we worship differently (or not at all), in these times we have to come together as one — and that’s what will, in the end, give us real power.

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Muslim refugees and political organizers shared the problems women — and humanity — face in faraway corners of the world, and right here next door to me, in Washington. They talked about rape victims being trophies of war, today, and young women of color struggling on DC streets, today, being forgotten and discounted by their police, their city, their society. Finally, I was reminded, as a white woman, of my responsibility, to never, ever be a bystander to hate.

Senator Tina Turner from Ohio spoke about “the power of one,” reminding how a single woman or man can make a difference with a single act of defiance, when necessary.

Yavilah McCoy, representing Jewish Women of Color, talked about why, though normally she would be at her table now, observing Shabbat, she could not stay away this time, when in the world and in our nation, our very humanity seems to be at stake.

Tamika Mallory, one of the leaders of the movement, herself, spoke up against hate of any sort, and said “I see you, my sisters.”

“To my Jewish sisters,” she said, “Don’t let anybody tell you who I am. I feel your pain. You have a place at this table.”

Some people consider she hadn’t gone far enough, when she wouldn’t denounce Luis Farrakhan. Personally, I heard what I needed to.

Back in Russia, our family had never been invited anywhere specifically, as Jews.

“Shabbat Shalom,” the crowd chanted.  And the crowd chanted, “As-Salaam-Alaikum,” which is another way to say the same thing, peace.

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With Kate Curiel, a young Muslim guest from Ohio. I hope we will stay in touch!

And so I say to the movement — flawed, messy complicated and ambitious — I say, thank you. Thank you for being there for all of us, and for all who need us, thank you for letting me in, thank you for leading me. To the movement and to its people with all their pain, and their pride, I say, if you’ll have me, I am here for you. For all of you. For all of us.