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August 21, 2017 9:48 am

Organizers of Annual Holocaust Commemoration Slam Racial Justice March On Yom Kippur As ‘Monumental Injustice’ Against Jews

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March of the Living participants pass through the gates of Auschwitz in 2016. Photo: MOTL.

The organizers of an annual Holocaust commemoration that culminates with a procession at the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland have strongly criticized the forthcoming March for Racial Justice for selecting Yom Kippur — the holiest day in the Jewish calendar — as the date for a show of unity along the National Mall in Washington, DC.

“By choosing a day in the Jewish calendar that Jewish people cannot participate in, you have effectively turned your March for Justice into a monumental act of injustice against the Jewish people,” declared Phyllis Greenberg Heideman, the president of the March of the Living, an annual intensive program that takes participants to Poland and then to Israel to commemorate the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis.

The March for Racial Justice is scheduled to take place on September 30, when many American Jews will be fasting and attending all-day synagogue services in observance of Yom Kippur. The date was chosen in honor of the victims of a white supremacist riot in Elaine, Arkansas, on the same date in 1919. More than 200 black Americans were murdered during the violence, including former servicemen who had just returned from the battlefields of World War One in Europe.

Last week, a statement from march organizers noted that “the March for Racial Justice did not realize that September 30 was Yom Kippur when we were factoring in these and other considerations and applying for permits.”

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The organizers added: “Choosing this date, we now know, was a grave and hurtful oversight on our part.” However, the date will not be changed. “We are marching in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters who are observing the holiest of days on the Jewish calendar,” the organizers said. “Holding fast to Jewish tradition is also an act of resistance, in the face of growing anti-Semitism.”

Greenberg Heidemann acknowledged that the organizers of the March for Racial Justice had apologized for their “grave and hurtful oversight,”  but added: “The correct path moving forward would be to change the date.”

“On behalf of 250,000 alumni of the March of the Living, who have traveled to Poland to see firsthand the remnants of the Holocaust and the devastating results of prejudice and hatred, we implore with the organizers of the March for Racial Justice to do the right thing: change the date of the March so that no-one is excluded,” she said. “Only then, will it truly be a march for justice.”

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  • Joe in Australia

    Phyllis Greenberg Heideman is also a director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which is probably relevant.

    I think the M4RJ choice of Yom Kippur was a shameful oversight, but it was an oversight, not a deliberate insult. They have apologised and prepared followup rallies for the next day, October 1st. I hope Ms Heideman can make one of those rallies, because it would be very meaningful to have a director of the RJC participating in a demonstration against racism.

    • Joseph Feld

      Just to note, wasn’t Abraham Lincoln a Republican ? Racism is a national issue, not a party political issue.

  • bertha yellowfinch

    So what. Everything is either a “slur” or “antisemetic” — as you say — “against jews”.

  • Reb_Yaakov

    Virtually all American calendars show Yom Kippur. Many people choose to overlook it. Maybe what is needed is a march for religious justice. What about all the events that are held on Shabbat, the most important holiday for Jews? What about use of the date terms “BC” and “AD” or references to Jesus as “Christ,” even in literature aimed at a general audience? What about religious holidays designated as national or state holidays? What about all the political leaders who see people of Jewish ancestry not as moral exemplars but rather as individuals who are “good with money” and best suited to do their dirty work for them?

    What have those people of Jewish ancestry who wanted to participate in the current event done to promote religious justice for Jews?