Two days ago, the administration of my Jewish high school persuaded many students not to participate in the national “Walkout” called for by the Women’s March to protest rampant gun violence because of the alleged anti-Semitism of certain leaders of the Women’s March. And we agreed.
SAR attracts an ideologically diverse student body, enrolling liberal Upper West Side and Bronx Jews as well as hard-right Republicans from Westchester and New Jersey suburbs. Together, we planned a non-partisan program that focused on commemoration and gun-violence rather than actual solutions, including both kids whose parents own guns and kids whose parents refuse to buy them toy “Nerf guns” for Chanukah.
As a Modern Orthodox Jewish high school, SAR is sensitive to left-wing anti-Israel sentiments, especially those espoused by Linda Sarsour, one of the Women’s March leaders that called for the nationwide walkout. In order to compensate for the mere association with Sarsour and her pro-Palestinian agenda, we also intended to “Jewify” our program. Harkening back to American Jewry’s rich involvement with the civil rights movement, we wanted to sing Hebrew protest songs and chant biblical peace slogans.
But then Tamika Mallory defended Louis Farrakhan. As leader of The Nation of Islam, Farrakhan is no stranger to anti-Semitism. He has called Hitler a “very great man” and, at a recent rally Mallory attended, attributed black social immobility (and all sexual immorality) to the Jews who control Hollywood and the FBI.
The leadership of Women’s March’s flirtation with anti-Semitism might confirm what us Jewish high school students hear from our teachers and college advisors all too often: Social justice advocacy, especially in left-leaning circles, is hard for Jewish students.
This “anti-Semitism on the left” trope is definitely overplayed in the college admissions process at my Yeshiva high school. It conflates anti-Zionism and pro-peace activism with true hateful anti-Semitism. At times, it verges upon fear-mongering.
But, instead of throwing our pencil-stained hands up in despair after the administration prohibited us from joining a Women’s March action, we remain energized in support of the Stoneman Douglas survivors. We still plan on holding a walkout to protest the gun-violence epidemic America now faces — but at a different time than the Women’s March one. In doing so, we Jewish teens are reasserting our place in social justice work — and reminding Mallory that Rabbi Heschel marching alongside Martin Luther King Jr. was not the end of Jews pursuing social justice, but only the beginning.