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The Lilith Blog 1 of 2

January 19, 2018 by

Why We March

Photo credit: Shira Gorelick

Photo credit: Shira Gorelick

Once again, women are on the march. We are indeed no strangers to marching. As women we have marched en masse for goals ranging from the idealistic to the pragmatic, and usually a mixture of both—the right to vote, the choice about when to give birth, family leave, and equal pay, among others. But not since the height of the civil rights movement have we felt so intensely that we are marching to save our nation’s soul.

2017 has seen an unrelenting attack on those our president disdains—women, people of color, immigrants, those in need of health care, with low incomes, with disabilities, anyone not white. We have always contested polices that hurt people who fall into these categories. We have rarely witnessed them treated with such contempt.

President Trump set the tone with his first initiative, a ban implementing his campaign pledge to bar Muslims from entering the United States. Looking back, the stage was set for the ban as early as December 2015, when candidate Trump explicitly called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” after the San Bernadino mass shooting. That first ban and its multiple iterations since have been designed to limit who can come into our country based solely on the color of their skin, their ethnicity, and their religion. So much for welcoming the stranger, or upholding the principles of immigration policy that date back more than 60 years—the value of immigrants, of family reunification, and the need and duty to welcome the persecuted and dispossessed. As members of a group who lost more than 6 million of our people in part because all doors were closed to us, we know what happens when such xenophobic policies are in place.

Speaking of the Supreme Court, President Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch (and like-minded lower court nominees) was the second major move to secure his base. Gorsuch’s confirmation had the double satisfaction for Trump and his allies of putting an extreme right wing justice on the court while at the same time driving the final nail in the Obama nomination of Merrick Garland, an eminently qualified mainstream candidate boycotted by the GOP-led Senate, never even given a hearing, let alone an up or down vote. 

Since then immigration generally has undergone an all-out assault. After the Muslim ban came the termination of DACA, the program deferring deportation for children brought to the US as immigrants by parents who lack a normalized status. Then came the de-legitimization of Haitians escaping the disastrous earthquake there and most recently the decision to deport 200,000 Salvadorans who had protected status in the US, presumably in hopes their 193,000 American born children would be forced to go back with them to that violence-plagued country.

Trump’s repeated failed attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act outright has been followed by a strategy more like death by a thousand cuts—making it harder to enroll, destabilizing the insurance markets, overturning the requirement that employers provide contraception coverage, and the like. The latest estimate from Marketreview.com/insurance/life/ is that 3.5 million Americans have lost their health insurance under Trump. 

Then of course, is the multi-pronged attack on women. Trump began by denying US funds for women’s health and family planning to international organizations that provide any abortion services or counseling — even with non-US funding. In the spring, Trump cut US aid to the UN Population Fund. In the summer, the administration asserted that most reports of college sexual assault were false, followed up by requiring a higher burden of proof in new guidance on how colleges should investigate sexual assault. Also last summer, the administration reversed a rule that would have exposed pay disparities by requiring many US companies to report on pay rates by race and gender. Finally in a sort of coup de grâce, in October the administration rolled back the Obamacare requirement that health insurance policies fully cover all FDA-approved methods of birth control. Only religious employers had previously been exempt.

Trump has also weighed in on transgender rights, stating that schools need not allow transgender people to use the toilet of their choice. In a more official denigration of transgender individuals, he told the military, over the objections of its leadership, to stop admitting transgender citizens into the US military. The Justice Department even reversed decades of civil rights law by supporting the right of a commercial business to discriminate in violation the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

In the face of these developments, and many more too numerous to enumerate, Jewish women across the country will march to proclaim our values. We will march against the racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia actively promoted by this administration. We will march against the cruelty of this administration’s agenda—cuts to the safety net now and attacks on Medicare and Social Security sure to come. We march to empower and energize ourselves and others for the battles still to come.


Nancy K. Kaufman is the chief executive officer of the National Council of Jewish Women, a grassroots organization inspired by Jewish values that strives to improve the quality of life for women, children, and families and to safeguard individual rights and freedoms.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Lilith Magazine.