The Jews Who Marched on Washington With Martin Luther King

50 Years Later, Recalling Moment That Changed History

Fifty Years Ago: Rabbi Joachim Prinz (center) confers with Martin Luther King Jr. as the two prepared to speak at the historic March on Washington in 1963.
getty images
Fifty Years Ago: Rabbi Joachim Prinz (center) confers with Martin Luther King Jr. as the two prepared to speak at the historic March on Washington in 1963.

By Seth Berkman

Published August 27, 2013, issue of August 30, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 5)

Often unrecognized in making the march possible is Arnie Aronson, who advocated for civil rights for six decades. In the months leading up to the march, secret meetings were held at Aronson’s house in Rye, N.Y., where many of the logistics for the event were debated and eventually finalized.

Al Vorspan, former director of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism’s commission on social action:

Arnie Aronson was indispensable. He was one of the great Jewish leaders of our generation. Arnie and Roy Wilkins [of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] were like twins. When those two set their minds to planning something, it was unbreakable. All parties leaned on Arnie for civil rights advice. He was the guy with the tools but never the publicity or grandstanding.

Hand in Hand: Arnie Aronson, far right, marches on the National Mall.
getty images
Hand in Hand: Arnie Aronson, far right, marches on the National Mall.

Simon Aronson, son of Arnie Aronson:

This was just before my 20th birthday, and I was home in Rye for the summer. I remember two meetings — there may have been more at our home. They would’ve been in June and July of ’63.

There were a few questions standing in the way. One was, ‘Where are we going to meet?’ Because if we met at SNCC’s [The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s] offices, it looks like SNCC is leading. People were ready to call the march off. There were a lot of politics [with] people threatening to back out at the last minute. So it was trying to find a neutral place and also trying to stay out of the limelight. What my father and Roy did was to invite pretty much all the leaders to our house. They all came in and sat around our dining room table — we had a modest house — and they spent the afternoon dishing things out. I remember shaking the hand of Martin Luther King.

Bayard [Rustin] was the real hands-on, full-time operational structurer of the march. Port-o-potties were a big question. Where do you put them? How many do you need? If it’s hot, what do you do with overheating? Bayard was in charge of all of that.

I know they also talked about orders of the speeches. That meant a big deal to black leaders.

We had a little upstairs and could peer through the banister and see them talking in the dining room. My mother would serve cookies or coffee. These meetings were two to three hours. I remember my father would tell me he wanted public pressure on the Kennedy administration to pass civil rights legislation, primarily aimed at jobs. My father was disappointed in the 1964 [Civil Rights] Act; he thought the bill was emasculated. The march worked in making it a national issue, public awareness, but the bill that passed itself he thought was a real loser.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.