“What can I do?”
That was the question Beth E. Finn asked herself in 2016 when then-candidate Donald Trump suggested creating a registry of Muslims.
“As a Jew, that really struck me,” she said. “That is way too similar to what happened in Nazi Germany against the Jews. We always say ‘never again,’ but I have to actually make that mean something and do something.”
She volunteered all her free time for the Hillary Clinton campaign so that, regardless of the results, she knew she did everything she could “to make sure that the outcome was what I wanted it to be.”
Although disappointed with that outcome, she felt empowered to fight and resist — so she joined the Women’s March as one of the founding organizers.
The second Women’s March in Philadelphia drew a crowd of about 40,000, who marched from Logan Square to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, equipped with witty yet solemn signs.
The march had a far less palpable fury in the air than its inaugural year, something Finn worried about, but she was pleasantly surprised once the speeches started that many have not given up the fight. While last year’s march coincided with President Trump’s inauguration, the 2018 march added to the continued conversation of the #MeToo movement that has shaken the nation.
Fellow founding organizer Amy Martin joined the march because she was “appalled” by the election: “I have two young children, and I’m trying to teach them a certain set of values, and I’m watching this man who’s a potential president pretty much go against everything I’m trying to teach my children.”
Once the speeches began at the museum steps, the crowd roared and denounced the Trump administration for its positions on issues such as reproductive rights, immigration, equal pay, LGBTQ rights, health care, the Black Lives Matter movement and sexual assault.
“The constant barrage of nastiness coming out of the White House — whether it’s a racist comment, a homophobic comment — I think the #MeToo movement really coming to the surface is definitely compelling us even more so this year,” Martin added. “Women are — we’re over it.”
Finn, who attends Congregation Rodeph Shalom, said she’s always been an active volunteer, which stems from the value of tzedakah. She found the Rodeph Shalom community very accepting and open-minded, which fueled her social activism.
“That openness was not something I was used to,” she admitted. “It’s because of the work I’ve been doing over the last year, like the Women’s March, and understanding of the issues I didn’t even understand existed in the world until I got involved with these causes. I lived in a pretty privileged white, middle-class bubble, and I have started to understand that there are people in the world who don’t have as much advantage as I do, and so understanding that has been really eye-opening for me.”
A few M.O.T.s took to the podium Jan. 20, including Rodeph Shalom Senior Rabbi Jill Maderer, Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania CEO Dayle Steinberg and City of Philadelphia Controller Rebecca Rhynhart, who spoke hours before her wedding that evening.
“When you see a wrong in the world, stand up and resist. When someone tells you you can’t, stand up and persist,” she said. “We must be bold, and we must be brave.”
Other M.O.T.s came to the second march for the first time.
Amanda Berman co-founded the Zioness Movement in August 2017 as a progressive, liberal organization that doesn’t “check their Zionist identities at the door.”
The movement was born out of the Chicago Dyke March last summer in which a Jewish lesbian was kicked out for carrying a Jewish star by pro-Palestinian activists.
In response, Berman felt compelled to add a new voice to the forefront of social activism in regard to Zionism.
“We reject BDS. We reject any discrimination against the Jewish people and the Jewish homeland,” she said. “We exist to say the American Jewish community is proudly Zionist and also has always been on the forefront of social justice activism, and we will continue to do that and not be intimidated by anyone who says we are not welcome.”
Berman was profoundly inspired by the Women’s March last year — until she heard some leaders shared opinions on Palestinian rights, Linda Sarsour or anti-Israel sentiments. Berman felt bringing up these issues missed the mark of the march itself.
“There were a lot of Jews and a lot of people in our community who … felt like they couldn’t participate in the Women’s March because they simply couldn’t support or endorse the messages that were coming from the leadership,” she said, noting she watched in tears.
“A year later, to have thousands of women showing up as proud Zionists and to say we will be welcome, we will be active, we will be heard,” she added, “it really feels amazing.”
Michelle Myers from Mount Laurel, N.J., led the Philadelphia Zioness cohort at the Women’s March with roughly a few dozen, after joining the movement just a few weeks prior.
She didn’t march last year for the same sentiments Berman expressed, but now she’s proud to put her views out there.
“There’s such loud voices speaking against Israel, but nobody’s sitting down and having a conversation about what’s really going on,” noted Myers, who teaches Israel advocacy and Holocaust education through the Jewish Community Relations Council. “We all have different political views, but what we share is Israel has the right to exist in safety and security. Jews have a right to their own homeland.”
Berman emphasized that Zioness marched specifically for women’s rights and equality in cities across the country this year, but there’s strength in numbers with their movement; “we feel empowered.”
It’s a numbers game for Finn and Martin, too. Their long-term goal is to promote the 2018 midterms — especially the female candidates.
“We can make a difference,” Finn said. “We need our elected officials to represent us. They work for us, not the other way around, and elections are a great way to remind them of that.”
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