March for Racial Justice (Yom Kippur Statement)

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On the taking steps to fix the scheduling of the March for Racial Justice this year on Yom Kippur, the organizers have released this statement, remarkable in many respects relating to the spirit of Yom Kippur and to alliance building at this particular moment.


The March for Racial Justice is committed to standing for racial justice with allies from across all races, ethnicities, and communities. We believe that none of us are free until all of us are free.

The March came into being as a reaction to the June 16 verdict rendered in the case against the policeman who shot and killed Philando Castile.  The unbearable murders of innocent Americans continue unabated and the time is now upon all Americans who seek equality and racial justice to stand up and say NOT ONE MORE. The moment calls for urgent action, as so many of us carry fear with us every single day, as we see black and brown people being shot down with impunity by police and white supremacists inciting terror in our cities.

To that end, it was and is important to us that the march be held on a day that has symbolic and historic significance to the black community. The first date proposed was September 9th which is the date of the Stono Rebellion, the largest rebellion of enslaved people in the US. The National Park Service informed us that the National Mall in DC was not available for 9/9 but was for 9/30. This day has resonance because it is the anniversary of the Elaine Massacre of 1919 in Elaine, Arkansas, during which more than 200 Black men and women were killed in cold blood by a mob of white citizens and law enforcement. Many of the Black victims had recently returned from World War I where they fought for our country. They died standing up for their rights and the rights of their communities. They were murdered in what was the largest state-sanctioned massacre of black people in US history.  

The organizers of the March for Racial Justice did not realize that September 30 was Yom Kippur when we were factoring in these and other considerations and applying for permits.

Choosing this date, we now know, was a grave and hurtful oversight on our part. It was unintentional and we are sorry for this pain as well as for the time it has taken for us to respond. Our mistake highlights the need for our communities to form stronger relationships.

After the horrifying events of the past weekend in Charlottesville, and the remarks by the President suggesting that “both sides” are to blame, we understand more than ever the need for unity against those who hate us in our many identities.  We have learned from our Jewish friends that Yom Kippur is a day of making amends and of asking and receiving forgiveness. We hope that our sincere apology will be received with compassion, and that we will build a stronger relationship among all our communities as a result.

While we continue to move forward with plans for the main march in Washington, DC on the anniversary of the Elaine massacre, we are working on ways to include the Jewish community on Saturday 9/30 after sundown and/or on Sunday 10/1.

We will be seeking a permit for the sister march in New York City for the afternoon of Sunday, October 1 and will share that information as quickly as we can. Many other sister marches are now being planned for Sunday, October 1 as well and we will keep everyone informed as those additional marches and rallies as they develop.

Our goal is and has always been to bring those committed to racial justice together and we are doing all we can to honor that important goal. We will continue to seek the thoughts and advice of religious and community leaders as this movement grows, and we will face those moments where fellow citizens register their concerns honestly and realistically.  As we share a big world with many people, all with their own rights to their freedoms of speech, expression and religion, we will always do our utmost to consider all points of view.

We are marching in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters who are observing the holiest of days on the Jewish calendar. Holding fast to Jewish tradition is also an act of resistance, in the face of growing anti-Semitism. We recognize and lift up the intersection of anti-Semitism and racism perpetrated by white supremacists, whether they wave Confederate flags, don swastikas, beat and kill people on the streets in Charlottesville, deface Holocaust memorials, or threaten and harass members of our communities and our religious and community spaces. And we recognize the need for all of us to work together in the face of an administration that condones widespread oppression of all those most vulnerable among us.

This is a long-term struggle and our relationship to each other transcends one day and one march. As we learn from this planning mis-step, we are working with Jewish leaders to make racial justice resources and prayers available for Yom Kippur observances in Jewish communities as well. We hope that on that holy day, Jews in synagogues across our country will pray for racial justice – lifting up black and brown people, Jewish and non-Jewish – in hope for safety and wholeness. Spiritual sustenance is an essential part of this work for justice. We’re committed to working together with the Jewish community throughout the year and every year until true justice for all of us is won.

The March for Racial Justice
August 15, 2017

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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1 Response to March for Racial Justice (Yom Kippur Statement)

  1. Elaine H.Kline says:

    Am horrified that there was such a
    thing as an Elaine Massacre; did
    not know about that. Another
    dreadful, disgraceful event that never
    should have happened. Thank you
    for sharing that very strong
    statement. Our prayers are always
    with you, in or out of synagogue. They
    will certainly be with you on Yom
    Kippur!! Blessings 🙏👍💚

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