Local Jewish Political Operative Helms Philadelphia Women’s March in Solidarity

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The Washington Women’s March on Jan. 21 is, according to The Washington Post, “expected to be the largest demonstration linked to Donald Trump’s inauguration.”

The goal of the large-scale action, per its mission statement, is to “send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights.”

The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) formally announced its support of the Washington march on Dec. 28.


“As a progressive faith based women’s organization, we are thrilled to join in solidarity … to send a message to the new Congress and administration that the rights of women, families, and communities must be protected,” said NCJW CEO Nancy K. Kaufman in a statement. “The march and efforts surrounding it fit squarely within NCJW’s mission to improve the quality of life for women, children and families and to protect individual and civil rights.”

At least 170 sister marches have been scheduled as well — in 48 U.S. states and internationally from Gdansk to Nairobi to Tel Aviv.

In Pennsylvania, marches are being organized in Erie, Lewisburg, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Women in Newark, Del., are planning a march, as are organizers in Trenton, N.J.

The group behind the Philadelphia march, whose Facebook page lists nearly 8,000 attendees, created the local effort in solidarity with Washington but plans to continue its work beyond the march.

Mariel Joy Kornblith Martin introduces her daughter to democracy in action.
Mariel Joy Kornblith Martin introduces her daughter to democracy in action.

Mariel Joy Kornblith Martin is one of the organizers of the Philadelphia effort.

A self-described “political junkie workaholic,” Martin was born in Colombia and adopted by “a fabulous Jewish family,” as she puts it, when she was 4.

“Leave it to a badass Jewish mama,” Martin said of her mother, a public school teacher who flew to Colombia to get Mariel in 1989, when Americans were advised not to travel there.

Martin grew up in Queen Village in a family that always made working for change a high priority.

Her grandmother was the longtime president of her sisterhood; her grandfather was a local committeeperson. Her mother was very engaged in the teacher’s union and was a lifetime member, and onetime president, of Na’amat.

Martin remembers going with her mother on Na’amat ventures as a child; the Jewish outreach had a big impact on her.

“All these things really permeated with me,” she said.

Martin’s family attended Beth Zion Beth Israel synagogue in Center City, where Martin was Bat Miztvahed and confirmed. She also graduated from Hebrew High School at Society Hill Synagogue.

In high school at Baldwin, she started her own tradition of volunteerism, organizing with the American Red Cross, among other groups. She went to Dickinson College and majored in political science. Though she joined a sorority there, she felt lonely.

“I missed having Shabbat dinner every Friday with my family,” she said.

So she got involved with Hillel.

“Dickinson has a great Jewish program,” she said. Her sorority sisters even got a little jealous.

“Where do you go every Friday night?” they asked her.

“I go to Shabbat!”

In law school she was part of the Jewish law club, too. “My Jewish identity was always important to me; it gave me the roots I needed.”

This was especially important because Martin occupied an unusual space in terms of personal identity and recognition. For many years of her life, she’d often be the only Latina in the room.

That could be a pretty lonely feeling – at least until someone would say, “Is that a hamsa you’re wearing?”

“Yeah,” Martin would say. “It’s from my Bubbe … ” and a new connection would be forged.

After law school, Martin got involved in politics, organizing with political campaigns — a professional choice that was “absolutely 100 percent” influenced by her Judaism, she said.

“It was always important to me, representing my religion and my ethnicity,” she said.

Most recently she worked on Gov. Tom Wolf’s campaign, but when she had her daughter in July, she thought she’d finally slow down.

On Nov. 9, however, she learned that two swastikas, along with the words “SIEG HEIL,” had been spray-painted onto the windows of a closed business on the 1300 block of South Broad Street.

“Seeing those swastikas, in Philadelphia, in the birthplace of our nation, that was it for me,” she said. “I thought, ‘This could be the start.’ It was so chilling. That was truly the catalyst that did it for me. I thought, ‘There is no way I am sitting out of this.’”

She quickly sent an email to a Pennsylvania organizer of the march in Washington, outlining her 16 years of experience.

“This is how serious I am about this,” she wrote. “Let me know how I can help.”

She was drafted into the Philadelphia march’s organizing effort about eight weeks ago, and since then she’s been incredibly busy.

Along with writing the local platform, she has been meeting with city officials and various stakeholders in order to put all the pieces together for a very complex endeavor. And she’s trying to bring as many women into the fold as possible.

“We as women need to have our voices heard,” she said. “Our way is to make sure that it isn’t an anti-Trump rally. We’re trying to create a safe space for women … regardless of party affiliation. This is bigger than just who you voted for. This is now about the impact of your government on your rights.”

The marches, she added, “put this administration on clear notice that if you [try] to strip us of our rights … we are not going to be silent about it.”

Unlike the Washington, D.C., platform, the Philadelphia platform has a clause about religious freedom, which Martin says she is responsible for.  

“It went to my Jewish roots,” she said. As for how religious freedom connects to women’s rights, Martin said: “I’m the one who brings out the Shabbat candles. I make sure that we have a nice family dinner, that we instill those traditions. In Judaism, your religion is based upon the mother’s line. For me it was always a woman’s role.”

Speaking of Shabbat, some Jewish women will inevitably be excluded because the march takes place on a Saturday.

In D.C., organizers are working on planning and promoting alternate opportunities for Jewish women to gather on Friday, Saturday night and Sunday. Martin is trying to do the same here by planning an event on Saturday that will start after sundown, she said.

After that, Martin’s work will be far from over — and that’s intentional.

“We want to try and maintain [the march’s] momentum,” she said, which is why she and the other members of the march’s committee have created the nonprofit Philly Women Rally Inc. “It’s a c4, not a c3 … it allows us to eventually have lobbying power in Pennsylvania.”

The Philadelphia Women’s March will be held on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, starting at 10 a.m. Further information can be found at wmow-phila.com. 

Contact: [email protected]; 215-832-0747

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